Joining Forces Blog

  • Joining Forces Joins Georgetown University for a Forum on Veterans in Our Communities

    I was fortunate to participate in a recent veterans forum, “From Nation-Building to Community-Building: Capitalizing on the Strength of Our Veterans Here at Home,” hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership in the McCourt School of Public Policy.

    This forum brought together a panel of national and local leaders, veterans, and civilians, to discuss efforts underway across communities and sectors to reintegrate and engage veterans. Moreover, our transitioning service members are joined by their families and bring the same considerable talents to any employer or community.

    Panelists from Blue Star Families, Hiring Our Heroes, the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors, and the Augusta Warrior Project shared their distinct perspectives on the contributions our veterans make to our society and what we as a country can continue to do to support their reintegration.

    This discussion could not be more timely, as combat operations transition in Afghanistan and our military adjusts its force structure to meet different threats. And as a consequence, increasing numbers of talented veterans and their families are returning to their hometowns across the nation to apply the considerable skills, creativity, and leadership that veterans and their families bring back to our communities.

    At Joining Forces, we see the national impact and benefit of collaboration. This type of momentum is only made stronger by conversation and action on best paths forward to support these veterans into our communities.

    We applaud the efforts of organizations like those convened by Georgetown that make a difference. Last Friday’s forum helps each of us gain a deeper understanding of the valuable skills and perspectives that our veterans and their families bring to every doorstep in America.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces.

  • The First Lady Encourages Military Families to Get Covered

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the White House Blog. See the original post here.

    Today, as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs Google+ Hangout to provide uninsured veterans, their family members, caregivers, and advocates information about health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act, First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged uninsured veterans who are not eligible for coverage by the VA and their families to sign up for health care in advance of the March 31 deadline.

    "The deadline for signing up is March 31st. So talk to your friends, your family, your neighbors … send them to the website right now, and keep on them until they sign up. Because all Americans deserve the security of knowing that you’ll have health care when you need it – especially families like yours who have already given so much to this country," said the First Lady.

    The Affordable Care Act helps honor our commitment to veterans by strengthening affordable health care options for their families. "The last thing our veteran families need is the stress of worrying that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you’ve worked so hard for," said the First Lady. "But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that weight is being lifted."

    If you don't already have health insurance, as of today, there are just 17 days left to enroll in health care coverage at HealthCare.gov before open enrollment ends on March 31. At HealthCare.gov you can compare your options based on price, benefits, quality, and other features, and enroll in a plan that fits your needs and your budget.

    Kasie Coccaro is Associate Director of Online Outreach for the White House Office of Digital Strategy.

  • VA Health Care, the Affordable Care Act and You!

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

    On Friday, March 14, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services and our community partners, VA is hosting a Google+ Hangout and information session to provide uninsured Veterans, their family members, caregivers and advocates information about health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

    Join us at noon ET on the Google+ event page – or on the VA website to learn more about what the Affordable Care Act means to Veterans and family members.

  • First Lady Screens Disney’s "Muppets Most Wanted" for Military Families

    First Lady, General Dempsey, and Kermit the Frog

    First Lady Michelle Obama, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Kermit the Frog deliver remarks to military children and families prior to a Joining Forces movie screening of Disney’s "Muppets Most Wanted," in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, March 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Yesterday at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and Kermit the Frog hosted military children and families from different organizations to view an advance screening of Disney’s "Muppets Most Wanted." Before the film screening, the First Lady spoke to the military children and families in attendance and shared how important military families’ service is to this country. On the subject of military children, the First Lady stated:

    I get to travel all around the country and I meet a lot of kids. And let me tell you, I am most impressed by our military kids, because I know you guys have a lot on your plates. When your parents are deployed, you have to be big boys and girls. You have to get your homework done. You have to stay out of trouble. You have to help out with your brothers and sisters, right? You have to behave. You have to be strong and brave.

    At the end of the remarks, Kermit was presented a military challenge coin by General Dempsey, who stated:

    I would like to take this opportunity to make a special presentation to Kermit, because of what Kermit has done for all of [our military families]. I’d like to give Kermit, as the senior Muppet, a coin from the senior military officer.

    Kermit was honored to receive this coin and saluted the crowd.

    The First Lady and Joining Forces are pleased to host military families as a way to show we all recognize and deeply appreciate their service. To learn more about how to get involved with military families, veterans, and service members, please visit whitehouse.gov/joiningforces/get-involved.

    Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director for Joining Forces.

  • Covering Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Participants through June

    Three years ago, the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 created the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) that has helped many unemployed veterans access educational programs. This program came at a crucial time when veteran unemployment was at 8.3%.  VRAP was specifically designed to cover veterans who are not eligible to receive GI Bill educational benefits.

    VRAP has helped qualified veterans who are 35 to 60 years old obtain up to 12 months of education benefits equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill.  Since the program’s launch, it has come to support more than more than 76,000 unemployed veterans and helped our Nation honor the sacrifices they made to their country.  

    Under the current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) authority to issue payments to VRAP participants will end March 31, 2014 – in the middle of the Veterans’ spring academic semester. Concerned that funds would be cut off before VRAP participants could complete their academic semesters, President Obama asked VA to explore all available options to ensure that eligible veterans are able to finish their Spring 2014 semester.  

  • Sesame Workshop for Military Families

    Ed. note: This is part of a series of blogs about wellness issues for Military Families, Veterans, and Service members. Check back for more Wellness Wednesday blogs, where we will cover topics relevant to the holistic health of the military and veteran communities.

    In my work, it never ceases to amaze me how military families are able to navigate the variety of challenges that military life presents. Helping children learn skills to cope with frequent moves and separations due to deployments, to handle difficult encounters with peers, and to clear other emotional hurdles are only a few of the strains on military parents.

    The Department of Defense and Military OneSource understand what military families face and as a result offer quality, no-cost, multimedia resources from Sesame Workshop. These resources can help military parents and children talk openly about common, everyday challenges, and teach children skills to guide them through a variety of both big and small life obstacles.

    Sesame Workshop products bring critical educational, emotional, social, and health and wellness lessons to children in an approachable way — through the use of the popular Sesame Street characters. The products, available on Military OneSource, include “Talk, Listen, Connect,” a series for children of deployed parents; “Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce,” for children whose parents are going through a divorce; “When Families Grieve,” a tool kit for children who have lost a loved one; and the latest product, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Resilience.”

    I am happy to announce that the most recent release in this series contains a book and DVD designed to help children ages 2 to 5 build important resilience and perseverance skills that will allow them to overcome challenges large and small. The multimedia tool kit is designed to boost children’s self-esteem, help them develop problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, and encourage them to express their feelings in positive ways.