Joining Forces Blog

  • An Open Letter to Our Veterans and Their Families

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross posted from The Huffington Post.

    Back when Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, we said that one of our top priorities was the health and well-being of our veterans and their families -- and we said that not only as First and Second Ladies, but as mothers and wives. For us, there's nothing more important than knowing that our families are healthy and happy. And after spending so much time with military families and hearing your stories of service and sacrifice for our country, I know that that's your priority as well.

    But while many veterans qualify for health coverage through VA programs, we know that today, there are 1.3 million uninsured veterans and nearly 1 million uninsured family members of veterans. As a result, right now, people who've already sacrificed so much for this country all over the world have to face yet another challenge here at home: dealing with the worry that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you have; enduring all those everyday stresses -- the pains you try to ignore, the symptoms you hope will just go away because you can't afford to see a doctor. 

    That's just not right. But thankfully, because of the new health care law, you and millions of other Americans will soon have access to the quality, affordable health insurance you need. This new law means you can get preventive care -- things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids -- without additional costs or co-pays. It means you can't be denied coverage because you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, cancer or asthma. And it means that young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old. 

    And if you don't have insurance, there's now a simple way for you and your family to get all of these benefits, along with the coverage you need. 

    If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn't applied for VA coverage, you may be eligible for care through the VA. To find out if you are, just go to VA.gov/healthbenefits, call 877-222-VETS, or visit your local VA facility in person. 

  • Joining Forces and Operation Shower Support Military Moms in Florida

    Amanda Maysonet is a Navy spouse. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she and her husband, Christian, have been married for more than a year. They both take great pride in Christian’s service as a Navy Petty Officer and jet engine mechanic assigned to the Guided Missile Cruiser USS GETTYSBURG (CG 64), based in Mayport, Florida.

    It’s an exciting time for the Maysonets…they are expecting their first child in January!

    But unlike many expecting mothers, Amanda won’t have her husband by her side when their new addition joins the family. Christian and his 375 shipmates left on a nine month deployment back in July and they don’t return home until April of next year.

    Like thousands of military spouses every year, Amanda is prepared to welcome their little one to the family without her husband by her side. That’s not easy. Although military spouses are among the most resilient and independent people I know, they can also use a helping hand every once and a while.

    Recently in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, at the Web.com TOUR Championship, that helping hand got extended to Amanda – and 40 other expecting moms whose husbands are presently deployed overseas with the Navy – courtesy of Operation Shower and a whole host of supporting organizations. Operation Shower is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide joyful baby showers for military families to ease the stress of deployment. The shower in Ponte Vedra Beach honoring military families was sponsored by the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation.

    Jim and Tabitha were on-site to host the event which included a brunch and generous set of gifts for all the expectant mothers. “We are thrilled to be involved with Operation Shower. Our military forces keep our country safe every day, and Operation Shower is a great opportunity to give back to their families in a meaningful way,” commented Tabitha Furyk.

    Operation Shower is also a proud participant in Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s nation-wide initiative to recognize, honor and support our nation’s veterans and military families – and not just through words, but through meaningful action. In April 2011, the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces. Among their first stops was an Operation Shower event for expecting mothers and spouses of deployed Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  

    More than two years and nearly twenty-five showers later, “Chief Shower Officer” LeAnn Morrissey says, “Operation Shower is honored to recognize the needs of military families.  Operation Shower was founded because we know that moms in a military family hold it all together at home – these moms deserve our support, our thanks, our love, and of course, they deserve a party! We’re grateful to work with such great partners as the PGA TOUR and the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation and volunteers nationwide to be able to bring baby showers to military moms whose husbands are deployed overseas.”

    Amanda Maysonet and 40 other military moms in Florida benefitted from the generosity of a grateful nation today. Through Joining Forces, let’s continue to serve Amanda and all our military families as well as they have served this country.

    Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces.

  • Wellness Wednesday: Veterans' Health Care by the Numbers

    Today begins a series of blogs on Wellness Issues for Military Families, Veterans, and Service members. Check back for Wellness Wednesday blogs, where we will cover topics relevant to the holistic health of the military and veteran communities.

    Joining Forces, along with the President, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Health and Human Services, is committed to supporting the wellness of military service members, veterans, and their families.  Today, we’ll summarize the actions of the Administration that enable Veterans to pursue the American Dream, especially as it relates to health and wellness.

    Improving Mental Health Care

    The President has allocated funds to the VA to provide high-quality mental health services for veterans.

    $7 billion: dollars of the FY2014 Budget committed to continue expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans.

    1669: mental health professionals hired by VA to increase capacity to provide timely mental health services for veterans.

    800: peer-to-peer specialists the VA will hire by December 31, 2013

  • The Blackstone Group hosts Inaugural Veterans Hiring Summit

    On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the Veterans Hiring Summit hosted by the Blackstone Group in New York City. In support of the Joining Forces initiative, the summit brought together seventy-eight of Blackstone’s portfolio companies to encourage them to contribute to Blackstone’s commitment to hire 50,000 American veterans over the next five years.

    The summit covered a variety of topics pertaining to hiring veterans, such as the strengths of the veteran applicant pool, coordination with local VA offices, and the role of mentorship in ensuring a positive transition to civilian life for those who have served our nation. The event was designed to help hiring executives within corporations learn how to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

    Joining Forces applauds Blackstone’s efforts in making sure our veterans find meaningful employment. They deserve jobs worthy of their talents – and thanks to organizations like the Blackstone Group this is becoming a reality for many veterans. Good civilian jobs not only help our veterans and military spouses manage the  transition from military to civilian life smoothly, but also demonstrate that our nation truly honors their service.

  • FMA Live! Teaches Military Students the Importance of STEM Education

    As part of our Family blog series, every week we will cover a topic relevant to military and veteran families.  Today we highlight FMA Live! – a unique one-of-a-kind show that  teaches students the basic principles of physics and connects the dots between Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and the great job opportunities of the future.

    In support of our nation’s military families, the FMA Live! Forces in Motion show kicked off their fall season by performing at a military-impacted school in Washington, DC. The show uses live actors, hip-hop music and dance, larger-than-life demonstrations, and audience participation to inspire teachers and military students to embrace STEM education.

    FMA Live! was created in 2004 by Honeywell Hometown Solutions and NASA with the goal of using innovative methods to instill a passion for innovation and technology within our future workforce. FMA Live!, along with the Joining Forces Initiative, aim to cultivate the talent of our youth to ensure that our country is equipped with scientists need to meet the challenges of the next century. 

    “Our country shouldn't lose out on its most promising talent because the career path is untenable,” explained First Lady Michelle Obama. “So we have got to do everything we can to keep fueling this country's engine of innovation and discovery.”

  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of America name RaShaan Allen Military Youth of the Year

    Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Inaugural Military Youth of the Year Celebration held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. At this event, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) announced the first-ever Military Youth of the Year winner. This distinct honor recognizes an outstanding military youth that overcame enormous odds with exceptional accomplishments. Members of the BGCA were judged on their community service, grades, speeches, and interviews. 

    This year’s winner is RaShaan Allen from Fort Knox, Kentucky.  RaShaan was one of six regional finalists and will now serve as BGCA’s official youth advocate for the 500,000 military youth that belong to BGCA. RaShaan demonstrates extraordinary character and is a true testament to how someone can overcome adversities and prevail.

    Growing up, RaShaan faced many challenges: his mother’s deployment, the lack of a father figure in his life, the eight moves he underwent in one year, and the loss of his home, his neighborhood, his school and his best friend during Hurricane Katrina. Despite these adversities, RaShaan participated extensively in extracurricular activities and served as co-president of the Club Youth Council and as Army Family Action Plan delegate. In high school, he played eight varsity sports and served as president for his freshman and senior classes. Currently, RaShaan is a student at Western Kentucky University, where he plans to major in political science.