Joining Forces Blog

  • 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.

  • Spotlight on Troops to Teachers: Jorge Pulleiro

    Jorge Pulliero teaching

    During Jorge Pulleiro’s tenure as a middle school teacher, he has received several prestigious awards, including the Loretta Wollet Award (2008) for outstanding teaching at the K-12 level, the Toyota International Education Award (2008) and the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange award to Universidad Popular de la Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico (2011). (Photos courtesy of Jorge Pulleiro)

    We all had teachers who influenced us and helped make us the adults we are today. In 2014, we will be honoring teachers who are having a lasting impact on their students each and every day, and who have also had a lasting impact on our nation – because these teachers are veterans who have chosen to begin a new career in the classroom after serving in the armed forces. 

    Our schools across the United States are benefiting from these former service members who are proud to serve their country again as teachers. They bring their unique talents into classrooms and are influencing a new generation of students. The White House and the Department of Defense, through the Troops to Teachers program, are joining forces to bring veterans' unique talents to public schools. Veterans offer unmatched skills, experience, and dedication to the schools and students they now serve.

    Our first spotlight is Troops to Teachers participant Jorge Pulleiro, a Spanish teacher at Wood River Middle School in Hailey, Idaho. Prior to becoming a middle school Spanish teacher, Mr. Pulleiro served in the United States Army for six years. His Army career took him from North Carolina to Heidelberg, Germany, and points in between. He served as a rear detachment commander for the Army in Germany; a protocol officer and escort for distinguished visitors; and as a team member of the casualty assistance center, where he was involved in the important and somber work of casualty incidents, family notification, casualty assistance, mortuary services and burial honors.

  • 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

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    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.