Joining Forces Blog

  • 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.

     

  • Joining Forces Calls America to Action During Super Bowl XLVIII

    Today, during Super Bowl XLVIII, the First Lady and Dr. Biden described the sacrifices that service members, veterans, and military families have made for this country. At the end of their message, they asked Americans to find new ways to salute and support our military and veteran communities so that our country can preserve the rights and freedoms that we all hold so dear.

    To show your support for our service members, veterans, and military families, please explore the Joining Forces website. Share your message of thanks for a military family here, and discover ways to get involved with service opportunities here.

    Show our nation’s heroes and their families that America has become the nation it is because of them.

    Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director for Joining Forces.

  • New Feedback System for GI Bill and Tuition Assistance Recipients

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau blog. See the original post here.

    In April 2012, at Fort Stewart, GA, I was privileged to watch President Obama sign Executive Order 13607: Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service members, Veterans, Spouses and other Family Members.

    The Order directed the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, in consultation with other government agencies, to create a system that would hold educational institutions accountable for the quality of the programs that they provide to those who use military-related education benefits. Its intent was to give military personnel, veterans, and their families the information they need to make informed decisions about where to spend their hard-earned military benefit dollars – and a place to complain if things went wrong.

    Today, the CFPB is very pleased to join the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, and Justice, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, in announcing a new online student complaint system where servicemembers, veterans, and their families can report negative experiences at education institutions and training programs administering the Post-9/11 GI Bill, DoD Military Tuition Assistance, and other military-related education benefit programs.

    This new feedback system, modeled after CFPB’s complaint system, will help the government identify and address unfair, deceptive, and misleading practices. It’s also intended to have the larger effect of ensuring high-quality academic and student support services for veterans, service members, and their families.

    Thanks to all the interagency partners who worked so hard to create this tool that gives military and veteran students the ability to help shape and improve the higher-education experience for themselves, their families and future veterans!

    GI Bill recipients can use the new VA GI Bill® Feedback System. DoD Tuition Assistance recipients can provide their feedback as well.

    Holly Petraeus leads the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • U.S. Chamber Foundation and Goodwill Help Veterans and Military Spouses by Providing Career Services

    On January 16, 2014, Goodwill Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program launched a partnership that will help veterans and military spouses in their transition into civilian life. Goodwill now provides comprehensive vocational services at Hiring Our Heroes job fairs across the country, which is another valuable resource for veterans and military spouses. Goodwill will also offer employment workshops and resume review to help our veterans and military spouses find employment. A list of Hiring Our Heroes job fairs can be found here.

    Joining Forces congratulates these two organizations for their efforts in helping our veterans and military spouses’ transition into their new careers. Organizations that help our veterans find employment are helping ensure that our veterans get the help and benefits they deserve after serving our nation.

    In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden implemented the Joining Forces initiative to connect service men and women, veterans, and spouses with the resources they need to find jobs. In April of that year, Goodwill launched a new initiative, Goodwill for America’s Heroes and Their Families, to expand its face-to-face career and family-strengthening services.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces.