Joining Forces Blog

  • @JoiningForces is Answering Your Questions to Celebrate Its 4th Anniversary

    The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces in April 2011 to call on Americans across the country to rally around service members, veterans, and their families.

    This month, Joining Forces is celebrating its fourth anniversary! We're talking about how we can inspire, educate, and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

    Want to join the conversation? We'll be focusing on specific themes throughout the month. Around each theme, the Joining Forces team will be hosting a Twitter chat to answer your questions on mental health, homelessness, employment, and education -- and hear from you.

    Ask your questions and join the conversation now using the hashtags below, and we'll answer from @JoiningForces on the day of the chat!

  • Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery Announces the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the blog of the United States Department of Justice. See the original here

    Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery announced the creation of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative in a video. You can watch the video here.

    Acknowledging the Debt We Owe Servicemembers and Veterans Through a New Initiative

    Attorney General Holder has said that, although we can never hope to repay the debt of gratitude our nation owes the heroes who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, we must never forget to acknowledge what we owe. The Department of Justice is firmly committed to doing its part in acknowledging what we owe. That’s why I am proud to announce the Attorney General’s creation of the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative. This initiative will be led by three dedicated career Justice Department attorneys with strong ties to the military community. They will further the Department’s existing efforts by coordinating and expanding our enforcement, outreach, and training efforts on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The initiative will address the unique challenges that servicemembers face while on active duty, that veterans face upon returning home, and that families face when a loved one is deployed.

    The sacrifices of our nation’s servicemembers go beyond the courageous act of putting themselves in harm’s way to defend our way of life. The sad fact is, they also face obstacles to exercising their civil rights and maintaining their families’ financial security. That is why the Justice Department prioritizes enforcing the statutes specifically created to protect the civilian employment rights, voting rights, and financial security of those serving in the Armed Forces.

  • President Obama’s Trip to Phoenix: Visiting Veterans in Arizona

    On Friday, President Obama traveled to Phoenix, AZ to visit the Phoenix VA medical facility and to participate in a roundtable discussion with the Veterans Administration Secretary Bob McDonald, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, and veterans to hear about the progress we've made to improve the VA’s ability to serve our veterans. 
    President Obama listens at announcement of MyVA

    President Barack Obama, with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, left, Joe Robles, Chairman of the just-announced MYVA, and Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, far right, listen to the comments of a veteran during a roundtable at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, March 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    While in Phoenix, the President announced the launch of an advisory committee: The MyVA Advisory Committee will advise the VA on additional ways the VA can work to improve customer service delivery and veterans’ outcomes. President Obama also charged the new committee with assessing what progress has already been made at the VA to improve veterans’ access to quality medical care.
    Secretary McDonald noted that the success of MyVa will be measured by veterans who were better served by the VA, and called its work “incredibly important.” The MyVA Advisory Committee is made up of private sector, nonprofit, and government leaders including: 
    • Maj. Gen. Josue “Joe” Robles Jr. – retired Army General, and retired President and CEO of USAA
    • Teresa Carlson – Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector Amazon Web Services
    • Herman Bulls - International Director and Chairman of Public Institutions at Jones Lang LaSalle
    • Michael Haynie, PhD - Vice Chancellor of Syracuse University
    • Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove, MD - CEO and President of the Cleveland Clinic

    "It's important that veterans know that somebody's got their backs, and that, if there are problems, that we're not being defensive about it, not hiding it."

    — President Obama

    President Obama made one last surprise stop at the new home of Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg. Cory and President Obama have met a few times – six, to be exact – and the President wanted to stop by and see his new place. Cory, a wounded Army Ranger, just moved into a new home bought and renovated for him by volunteers, the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, and the Homes for Wounded Warriors foundation.

  • Changing the Story about Mental Health in America

    Today, in support of her Joining Forces initiative, the First Lady spoke at the launch of The Campaign to Change Direction, a nation-wide effort to raise awareness around mental health in America. Spearheaded by Give an Hour and co-sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the campaign is designed to change the story of mental health across the nation by urging all Americans to learn the five signs that someone might be in distress.

    While there has been much media attention on mental health in the military and veteran community, it is incredibly important to understand that mental health isn’t just a military issue -- it is a human issue. Mental health conditions impact our children, our grandparents, and our neighbors. Every year, roughly one in five adults -- or more than 40 million Americans -- experience a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety.

    It’s up to all of us to change the conversation by encouraging everyone to reach out when a friend, co-worker, veteran, or loved one might be struggling, and to ask for help when we need it for ourselves.  

  • Strengthening America’s Families: Joining Forces & Blue Star Families

    Blue Star Families creates a platform for military families and civilian leaders to work together encouraging community-level leadership to address the challenges of military service. Through Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden -- a Blue Star mother herself -- have worked side-by-side with Blue Star Families to honor service members, veterans, and their families. This week, Blue Star Families hosted a celebration commemorating their fifth anniversary.

    In the past five years, Blue Star Families has grown its membership and its programming exponentially. It has helped 700,000 military family members experience the arts through Blue Star Museums; it has gathered more than 26 million hours of volunteer service through Operation Honor Card, and it has informed policy makers through the publication of its annual Military Family Survey.

    I was honored to attend the fifth anniversary celebration this week, and I was happy to help share this video from the First Lady with Blue Star Families:

    Watch on YouTube

    United States Army Colonel Steve Parker is the Executive Director of Joining Forces. 

  • Vet Centers Offer Free Support to Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

    Each year, Vet Centers in communities across this country provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to more than 200,000 veterans, service members, and their families. Vet Centers are staffed by qualified mental health professionals who provide family services, assessments, education, preventive health care information, family counseling, bereavement services, and referrals. Most of the staff members are veterans themselves and understand the unique challenges that veterans and their families can sometimes face. They can also assist with navigating the larger Veterans Affairs (VA) system, including both health care and benefits.

    The families of veterans and service members can access services at Vet Centers. The services offered are confidential, completely free of charge, and do not require VA enrollment. Read more about Vet Center services, and find your local Vet Center at You can also contact Vet Center staff 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

    Beginning next month, Joining Forces will host a monthly feature on this blog highlighting the Vet Centers and the great work they do.

    Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director of Joining Forces.