In 2022, First Lady Jill Biden continued to lead the White House’s Joining Forces initiative to support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors with a focus on military spouse economic opportunity, military child education, and health and well-being. Dr. Biden participated in more than 20 Joining Forces engagements, including a series of visits with military-connected communities across the country and around the world.
Since becoming First Lady, Dr. Biden has visited 24 military installations; worked with Joining Forces partners to support over 30 events with the military-connected community; and helped coordinate the Administration’s efforts to increase and raise awareness of resources and support for military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.
“You deserve support—and the service members who love you deserve to know that we honor their entire family’s service. Your physical, social, and emotional health are critical to our national security. That’s what Joining Forces—my White House initiative to support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors—is all about.”
FIRST LADY JILL BIDEN, AT FORT BENNING, GEORGIA ON OCTOBER 13, 2022
Connecting Across the Nation & Globe
In 2022, Dr. Biden heard directly from military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors during visits across the states and abroad.
Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida
In February, Joining Forces collaborated with Disney and Blue Star Families to host the 20th Blue Star Books on Base event, donating over 2,000 books to Coast Guard families in Miami. Dr. Biden participated in a book reading to more than 200 Coast Guard children and their families.
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
Also in February, Dr. Biden hosted a roundtable discussion with military-connected families, staff, and community supporters involved with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) at Department of Defense (DoD) Child Development Center.
Fort Campbell, Kentucky
In March, during a barbeque hosted by the Armed Services YMCA, Dr. Biden met with families of the of the 101st Airborne Division service members deployed to Europe in support of a combined task force providing security assistance to our NATO allies.
In April, the President and Dr. Biden participated in the commissioning ceremony of the USS Delaware, a Virginia-class attack submarine, at the Port of Wilmington in Delaware alongside the sailors and families attached to the ship. Dr. Biden serves as the sponsor of the submarine.
Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri
In April, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Dr. Biden visited Whiteman Elementary School and Knob Noster High School to mark the Month of the Military Child. During their visit, Dr. Biden and Secretary Cardona visited a pre-K classroom, saw art created by military-connected students, and hosted a pep rally honoring military-connected kids.
Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base, Romania
In May, Dr. Biden visited with U.S. service members supporting the NATO mission during a visit to Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base in Romania. While there, she launched the newest United Through Reading Story Station to allow service members to video record themselves reading their child’s favorite storybook and share with their families back home.
In June, Dr. Biden visited the Home Base National Center of Excellence in Boston to shine a light on resources available for healing the invisible wounds of war. During her tour, she met with families and staff who participate and support Home Base’s veteran, service member, and family-focused programming.
Fort Benning, Georgia
In October, Dr. Biden spent two days with the military community at Fort Benning. While on base, she spoke with military families during a dinner hosted by the Robert Irvine Foundation and met with soldiers undergoing basic training. She also led a roundtable conversation with military families enrolled in EFMP, service providers, and local educators.
In October, Dr. Biden, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough celebrated the children who help care for a wounded, ill, or injured military or veteran parent or guardian at a special Hidden Helpers Coalition event with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina
In November, President Biden and Dr. Biden celebrated Friendsgiving with 400 Marines, sailors, and their families during a holiday meal hosted by the Robert Irvine Foundation with the USO at MCAS Cherry Point.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia
In December, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, Dr. Biden and President Biden helped military children sort donated toys for distribution to families in need.
Collaboration with Community Partners
Throughout 2022, Dr. Biden collaborated with community partners to advance the Joining Forces initiative by:
- Announcing a series of new commitments with the Hidden Helper Coalition to bring attention to the more than 2.3 million children and youth living with wounded, ill, or injured service members or veterans. The coalition also expanded to 75 member organizations that represent a diverse cross-section of public and private sector partners, including: the History Channel and A+E Networks, Lockheed Martin, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Convening spouses during the National Governors Association to build over 1000 care packages for Operation Gratitude in support of National Guard families.
- Unveiling the new Hidden Helper Badge Buddies during the American Academy of Pediatrics Advocacy Conference. The Badge Buddies, available from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, identify providers as allies and connect them with resources to support military and veteran children in caregiving homes.
- Planting a magnolia tree on the White House South Lawn with President Biden and Gold Star Families to create a living memorial in honor of those who have lost their lives and the families who carry on their legacies.
- Speaking to educators about the importance of knowing and supporting military-connected children in their classrooms at the Military Child Education Coalition Summit.
- Advocating for Hidden Helpers and the broader military-connected communities at the Congressional Military Family Caucus.
- Partnering with the Military Child Education Coalition and Kids Rank to create the first-ever White House military child art installation to mark Month of Military Month of the Child.
- Highlighting the needs of Hidden Helpers at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s Summit for America’s Youth, and urged the organization to support children impacted by their parent’s military service.
- Discussing the unique experiences of Special Operations Forces and their families with Commanders and Senior Enlisted Advisors at the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) Commander’s Conference.
- Delivering opening remarks at the first-ever Federal Interagency Military Spouse Career Expo in support of efforts to establish the federal government as the employer of choice for military spouses. Eighteen federal agencies and sub-agencies participated in the career expo attended by approximately 1,000 military spouses.
- Convening National Guard leaders and families for a roundtable discussion during National Military and Veteran Families Month. Seven children of National Guard members met with Dr. Biden to share their experiences and talk about the role of their communities and schools in their well-being.
Federal Government Coordination
Joining Forces continued to coordinate efforts across the federal government to increase and raise awareness of resources and programs for military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.
- President Biden signed the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The PACT Act comprehensively addresses toxic exposures that have impacted veterans, as well as their families and caregivers, and provides them with the health care and benefits they have earned and deserve.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the extension of survivor benefits for certain survivors of LGBTQ+ veterans, closing a gap on support for LGBTQ+ veterans and their families
- The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants announced new funding for 26 creative arts organizations to improve the well-being and quality of life for veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers. Creative Forces is an initiative of NEA in partnership with DoD and VA.
- The Biden Administration released the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. The plan includes commitments to expand access to family planning services, including: pre-pregnancy health and contraception; issuing guidance from the Military Health System requiring walk-in contraceptive clinics at all military medical treatment facilities; and evaluating the impact of doulas and lactation support on service members and their families through a demonstration project providing beneficiaries with doula and lactation services not typically covered under TRICARE. The Blueprint also outlined a plan to establish a national, confidential, 24-hour, toll-free hotline for pregnant and postpartum individuals facing mental health challenges to increase access to mental health care.
- The Department of Defense released the Strengthening Food Security in the Force: Strategy and Roadmap, outlining a plan to ensure service members and families have the tools, skills, and resources necessary to access to sufficient nutritious food. This report focuses on six lines of effort designed to: 1) increase access to healthy food, 2) enhance military spouse economic opportunities, 3) review service member pay and benefits, 4) reinforce financial resources and awareness, 5) encourage service members and families to seek available resources and services, and 6) expand data collection and reporting. In support of the plan, the Defense Commissary Association has piloted grocery delivery services at eight locations and expanded the Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood PLUS program to additional states.
- In collaboration with the Department of Defense (DOD), Dr. Biden authored a letter to state childcare leaders encouraging them to participate in the expansion of DOD’s childcare fee assistance program. This program creates more opportunities for military families to seek community-based childcare and expands the capacity of existing quality childcare.
- The White House hosted a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health for the first time in 50 years. This historic event brought together leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, including military and veteran families, to discuss a national strategy to end hunger in America, improve nutrition and physical activity, and close the disparities among the communities most impacted.
- The Department of Veteran Affairs announced it will establish an Office of Food Security to help tackle food insecurity among veterans, expanding the clinical nutrition services it provides to veterans receiving VA health care. It will also launch produce prescription programs and food pantries to meet the needs of veterans and their families.
- The Department of Defense announced a new commitment to provide clear and consistent labeling of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) products in commissaries according to state agency program guidance. In addition, DoD also committed to provide commissary beneficiaries with online shopping and electronic payment options as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC programs are brought online.
- The Department of Education closed the 90/10 loophole in the Higher Education Act that allowed for-profit colleges to aggressively recruit from the military-connected community. The revised definition means institutions will no longer be able to count money from veteran and service member benefits toward the 10% revenue requirement from non-federal sources.
- The Department of Veteran Affairs expanded the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers(PCAFC) to include veterans of all service eras. The VA Caregiver Support Program has received approximately 33,000 applications through December 2022, while over 31,000 PCAFC applications have been reviewed and advanced to the next stages of application processing or clinical review or received final disposition.
- The Department of Interior announced the availability of a free lifetime pass for veterans and Gold Star families, giving veterans and Gold Star families access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across more than 400 million acres of public lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the 988 Veterans Crisis Line to provide veterans and their loved ones an easy-to-remember number to help veterans in crisis. Since releasing a comprehensive public health strategy for reducing military and veteran suicide in 2021, both DOD and VA reported declines in suicide deaths, marking progress in federal efforts to prevent suicide. VA awarded $52 million in grants for 80 community-based organizations to deliver or coordinate suicide prevention programs and services for veterans and their family members.