Progress is being made in getting servicemembers employment as they transition into the civilian workforce. But as U.S. Navy Capt. Todd Veazie told attendees at The American Legion’s Washington Conference Feb. 26, progress doesn’t mean the work is finished.
A Navy Seal who currently serves as executive director of Joining Forces in the Office of the First Lady at the White House, Veazie gave an overview of the Joining Forces program, which is based on three pillars: employment, education, and health and wellness.
“As we draw down with the war in Afghanistan, the military is expected to separate a million servicemembers over the next several years,” Veazie said. “These heroes will be reintegrated back into our communities to take up their next mission. They will be reuniting and reconnecting with their families in ways that will represent a new normal.
“They need us now, more than ever. We need to stay focused, and we need to stand by them, and I know the Legion will.”
Veazie said that President Barack Obama issued a challenge to the practice business sector in 2010 to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans and their spouses by 2013. The goal was met last August; more than 2,000 companies have hired or are training 125,000 veterans and military spouses while pledging to hire an additional 250,000 by the end of 2014.
“We’re well on track to meet that goal,” Veezie said. “But we know that more can be done and must be done.”
Veazie pointed to legislation at the state level that would make it easier for military spouses to transfer their state licenses or certified credentials – in fields such as nursing or teaching – when forced to move because of the fact military families move at a rate 10 times higher than civilian families.
A year ago, 11 states had such legislation on the books. Now, 28 have it, and 15 more have bills introduced in their legislatures.
“They took up the call and answered,” Veazie said. “This represents over 80 percent of our military families. Our goal is to continue to sweep up the rest of the states.”
Veazie also referenced Joining Forces’ call to all 50 states to pass legislation streamlining state licensing processes for servicemembers, veterans and their spouses by the end of 2015.
“This is just the next step in the president’s strategy to support veterans employment,” Veazie said. He also pointed out the Legion’s efforts in the licensing area.
“The Legion has been championing military licensing and credentials for years many years now,” he said. “At Joining Forces, we look forward to a close collaboration with the Legion to see this through in all 50 states.”
Switching to the subject of sequestration, René Bardof – the Department of Defense’s deputy assistant secretary for public affairs for community and public outreach – told attendees that the impending budget cuts won’t just affect national defense.
“It’s $1.2 trillion, of which $500 billion comes out of defense,” she said. “It is the loss of teachers, child care, health care, safety, law enforcement, and it does affect our national security. And I know that as you’re up on (Capitol Hill), that you will advocate for our servicemembers and their families in this matter.
“We will have furloughs – 800,000 civilians. And we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think that the second- and third-degree effects of that won’t impact our servicemembers, their families, and the programs that support them and our veterans.”