Joining Forces Blog

  • President Obama Encourages Licensing and Credential Legislation for Military Spouses and Service Members at National Governors Association Meeting


    President Barack Obama meets with the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, in remarks to the National Governors Association, President Obama told governors from across the nation that impactful licensing and credential legislation is a necessity for military spouses and transitioning service members.

    Since the First Lady and Dr. Biden first began meeting with members of the military community, they have heard countless stories about how spouses struggled to find jobs in their fields because when they moved, their professional licenses were no longer valid, or they didn’t meet a new state’s credentialing requirements. Upon learning about these obstacles, the First Lady and Dr. Biden began advocating for new legislation that supports transitioning service members and military spouses to get the professional licenses and credentials they need to get hired.

  • Austin’s Military Playroom Opening at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton

    On Friday, January 31, the Mario Lemieux Foundation announced the opening of an Austin’s Military Playroom at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. This playroom will serve many military and veteran families in the San Diego area by giving their children a place to have fun and relax while they receive care at the hospital.

    As an active duty service member and mother of three, I understand the importance of having a place for kids to unwind and relax, especially during trying times. This playroom means that military and veteran parents will deal with a bit less stress when they spend time at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

    This military playroom is the second of its kind opened by the Mario Lemieux foundation. The first was opened at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland in 2011. To read more about the Austin’s Military Playroom opening at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, read here.

    The Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3  organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playroom Project.

    Commander Cara LaPointe, US Navy, is a White House Fellow in the Office of the First Lady

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Announces that the Construction Industry Will Hire 100,000 Veterans Over the Next 5 Years

    P021014AL-0109 -

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Symposium on Veterans' Employment in Construction, in support of Joining Forces, at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2014. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and veterans Larry Melton and Katie Sanicky are onstage with the First Lady. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Today,  First Lady Michelle Obama  addressed well over 300 stakeholders from the military, business community, and federal  government at the first ever Veterans’ Employment in Construction Symposium at the Department of Labor. The First Lady announced that more than 100 companies in the construction industry are committing to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next 5 years.  

    This announcement is a testament to what can happen when employers think bigger than their own company’s needs and come together to leverage their industry’s resources. Associations like NCCER and the Home Builder’s Institute, as well as those supported by the Building Trades, Associated General Contractors of America, and firms partnered with Helmets to Hardhats’ are banding together to train the next generation of workers.

    In her remarks, The First Lady noted that, “America’s military turns out some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working employees this country has ever seen.”  Veterans have the experience and skills necessary to succeed in any career and today we thank the construction industry for this innovative commitment. This visionary effort is addressing the need for improved transition support and skills development in this ever growing field.  

    We urge other sectors, firms, and associations to view veterans as an investment in their organization and America.

    To review the First Lady’s speech, please click here.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces.

  • Nine Soldiers Selected for 2014 U.S. Olympic Team

    Ed. note: This cross-posted from the Department of Defense's DoD Live blog. See the original post here.

    Olympic Bobsledding

    Army Sgt. Nick Cunningham, assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, jumps into the sled to drive Olympic gold medalist and WCAP teammate Sgt. Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn, and Abraham Morlu to 16th place in the four-man bobsled event at the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation’s 2013 World Cup stop Dec. 7, at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. (U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps/Released)

    Nine soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program are members of the U.S. Olympic Team that will compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, scheduled for Feb. 7 through 23 in Sochi, Russia.

    The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced the team Jan. 27.

    The soldier-athletes named to Team USA are 2010 Olympic gold medalist in four-man bobsled Sgt. Justin Olsen, 26, of San Antonio; 2010 Olympic bobsledder Capt. Christopher Fogt, 30, of Alpine, Utah; 2010 Olympic bobsledder Sgt. Nick Cunningham, 27, of Monterey, Calif.; bobsledder Sgt. Dallas Robinson, 31, of Georgetown, Ky.; 2006 Olympic luger Sgt. Preston Griffall, 29, of Salt Lake City; and luger Sgt. Matt Mortensen, 28, of Huntington Station, N.Y.

    Three WCAP coaches also will represent the U.S. Army in Russia. Team USA luge coach Staff Sgt. Bill Tavares, 50, of Lake Placid, N.Y., will be making his sixth appearance in the Olympics, including once as an athlete and five times as a coach. Team USA skeleton coach Sgt. 1st Class Tuffield “Tuffy” Latour, 45, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., will make his fourth trip to the Olympics. He has coached U.S. and Canadian men’s and women’s bobsledders to Olympic medals. Team USA assistant bobsled coach 1st Lt. Michael Kohn, 41, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is a two-time Olympic competitor who will make his Olympic coaching debut at the Sochi Games. He won a bronze medal in four-man bobsled as a WCAP athlete at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

    USA-1 bobsled driver Steven Holcomb, 33, of Park City, Utah, is the reigning Olympic champion in the four-man event. He spent seven years in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.

  • Caring for the Caregivers

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post. See the original post here.

    Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden host a Wounded Warrior barbecue at the Naval Observatory Residence

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a Wounded Warrior barbecue at the Naval Observatory Residence, Sept. 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Earlier today, at an event on the expanding role of caregivers in our society, I had the opportunity to tell the story of two remarkable young men I met at a reception my husband Joe and I hosted for Wounded Warriors on Sept. 11, 2013.

    Kyle and Brett Pletzke are brothers from Rockford, Michigan. Kyle is an Army Specialist who was injured on his first deployment to Afghanistan in late 2012. Kyle sustained multiple pelvis fractures, an ankle injury, and nerve damage to most of his right leg.

    When Kyle first came to the White House in 2013, he was in a wheelchair. A few months later when he came to our home for the reception, he was walking.

    Kyle credits much of his progress to the fact that his older brother Brett was able to serve as his primary caregiver during his recovery. And Brett notes that the reason he was able to help Kyle was because of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Caregiver Rule, which provides training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend to post-9/11 veterans' caregivers.

    Because of the Rule, Brett's employer kept his job open so Brett had the time to care for his brother. Now Brett's back at his job in Chicago, and Kyle is doing great. Like the brothers' situation illustrates, these support systems can have a significant impact on the day-to-day hardships caregivers face.

  • VA Offers New Tools to Ensure Post-9/11 GI Bill Beneficiaries Are Informed Consumers

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Veterans Affairs' VAntage Point blog. See the original post here.

    What’s the first thing you do when shopping for a big-ticket item? You might shop around, ask friends and relatives for their opinion, or compare items online. In today’s world of instant online access to a wealth of consumer information – from online reviews to infographics comparing products, product websites, and online shopping sites – consumers are used to finding and comparing information online before they buy.

    Thanks to VA’s new GI Bill® Comparison Tool, you can now find information online about Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and the schools and training programs available to education beneficiaries.

    Before this tool launched, estimating how much beneficiaries may receive under the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit was challenging. Many beneficiaries provided this feedback to our GI Bill Facebook page. The new comparison tool makes it easy to estimate Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits with just one click.

    In addition, you can find and compare information on our 10,000+ approved education and training programs, including estimated tuition and fee amounts and your projected housing allowance. Also available are each school’s graduation rate, student loan default rate, and Yellow Ribbon participation. Together, the GI Bill benefit estimator and school comparison information enable students to compare education options and make the best decision for their future.

    Also, for the first time, VA is publicly releasing information about the number of students receiving VA education benefits at a particular school. Through the online comparison tool, students can now see how many Veterans attend the school of their choice. In the future, VA will add additional functionality to the tool, including the ability to compare up to three schools side-by-side.

    Curtis Coy is VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for the Office of Economic Opportunity.