Words by Bridget Foster.
“Joining Forces” Celebrates Three Years of Helping Veterans and Their Families
Three years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden created the Joining Forces initiative in an effort to offer Americans the opportunity to show gratitude and support for servicemembers and their families. With input from military families, the initiative focused on three objectives:
Expand access to wellness programs and resources for military spouses and families
Promote expanded education opportunities that would ease transferability for military-connected students and increase job training opportunities for spouses and veterans
As part of a month long celebration of the third anniversary of Joining Forces, the First Lady and Dr. Biden appeared April 23rd at a veterans’ job summit at Fort Campbell and announced that the initiative had resulted in the creation of 540,000 jobs for military veterans and their spouses – a number far exceeding the goal of 100,000 jobs in the first two years. Under Joint Forces, they announced, the military spouses’ employment program has also recruited 228 employers since the program began in 2011. At that time, only 60 employers had committed to hiring military spouses.
But, the big news at the summit was the announcement of a new “one-stop job-shopping” website that was launched by the federal government on Wednesday. The Veterans Employment Center website will help military veterans and spouses build resumes, provide education and job counseling, help veterans to translate military skills into private sector skills and provide career and training information. Veterans and military spouses can also add their information to a database that can be accessed by employers.
Overshadowed by the difficulties experienced with the rollout of Healthcare.gov, officials in the Obama Administration said in AP story on Tuesday that they have tested the site and have ensured that it can handle the traffic expected to be generated.
This third anniversary of Joining Forces adds an additional focus on military caregivers. According to statistics cited by First Lady Michele Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on their whitehouse.gov website, there are an estimated 5.5 million military caregivers in the US and at least 1.1 million of them are caring for Post 9/11 veterans. First Lady Obama and Dr. Biden have been joined by Senator Elizabeth Dole and former First Lady Roselyn Carter to bring together leaders and organizations across the country to train 10,000 caregiving peer mentors to support the men and women providing care to their wounded spouses. The Department of Defense will be creating in-person caregiver forums at every military installation serving wounded warriors and their spouses, as well as providing online tools for those caregivers who are unable to attend the forums to still be able to connect to their caregiver peers.
Several organizations are also stepping up to the plate to provide support and resources to military caregivers. A new website to provide caregivers with financial and legal assistance will soon be launched in a joint effort by USAA Bank, the Military Officers’ Association of America and the American Bar Association.
“In the end, that’s really what Joining Forces is all about…connecting our military families with the resources available to them, and rallying our country to do even more,” wrote the First Lady and Dr. Biden. “We want all of our military spouses and caregivers to know how awed we are by their strength, determination and service to our country.”