Task Force Movement (TFM) is adding a third pillar to its initiative to accelerate veteran certification in specialized fields and help close critical gaps in the U.S. economy.
“We are facing a persistent shortage in medical personnel in the U.S. health system, which the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated,” TFM Chairman Patrick J. Murphy said after making the announcement to add health care to commercial trucking and cybersecurity to the American Legion-supported mission. He announced the plan at a credentialing summit Aug. 30 during The American Legion’s 104th National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
“Military personnel have been shown to be invaluable during times of domestic emergencies. During the pandemic, thousands were deployed across the country to support hospitals and health systems during the surges and then to implement broad sweeping vaccination plans. We as a country should be able to easily transform those coming out of the military with these skills to health-care positions that we need to fill by supporting the education, training and licensure of those that want to pursue much-needed positions in the health-care field.”
TFM was launched by the Biden administration in April 2022 to help veterans quickly obtain commercial driving licenses and help reduce supply-chain bottlenecks partly caused by a nationwide shortage of some 80,000 truckers. The American Legion was appointed a seat at that time on TFM’s steering committee.
At The American Legion’s 103rd National Convention last year in Milwaukee, Wis., TFM followed the push in trucking by announcing the opening of a second portal – cybersecurity – that seeks to fast-track veterans into a career field with some 750,000 vacancies nationwide, about 60,000 of which are in government.
Murphy told attendees of the summit – who included TFM members representing industry, labor, education, VA, the military, government, The American Legion and other veterans groups – that the task force’s success in training and placing veterans in trucking and cybersecurity depends on a diverse spectrum of stakeholders communicating with one another and sharing the same mission.
“We have made incredible strides,” Murphy told the group. “Over 300 partners within Task Force Movement, $5 million drive for 500 scholarships for veterans and military spouses to get CDL licenses. Over $500,000 raised for other scholarships … We were trying to soften pain points that Americans are facing right now. Veterans can’t solve all the problems, but we will lead the charge to solutions.”
The second American Legion/Task Force Movement Credentialing Workshop assessed progress made so far to break down barriers and find pathways to good careers in commercial truck driving and cybersecurity. Panel discussions addressed issues and needs that ranged from access to capital for commercial truck owner/operators to risks associated with elevators and escalators that are dependent on computer technology. Also discussed were a variety of education and training programs, along with an increasing need to fill positions in the aviation industry, many of which are uniquely suited for veterans.
Veterans with security clearances and military experience in technology also are poised to not only get good jobs in cybersecurity but to continue protecting U.S. national security. “Cyber-crime has gone up over 600% since COVID,” Murphy said, noting that a considerable percentage of GDP is lost each year to cyber-attacks and that (hackers) “overseas are attacking our companies and small businesses, our families … every day, trying to steal our intellectual property.”
By working with schools and industry, TFM is debunking myths and misconceptions about cybersecurity qualifications, including the notion that a four-year college degree is necessary to get a job in the industry.
TFM’s trucking program, meanwhile, has involved skills-test waivers for veterans who drove military vehicles in the service and engagement with DoD SkillBridge programs to help servicemembers convert their military experience into careers in transportation.
Industry needs often intersect, TFM Executive Director Elizabeth Belcaster explained. “The trucking industry has cybersecurity. We know that health care has cybersecurity. One industry vs. another, they all have cyber – health care, financial institutions … it’s every industry.”
While no two of the three industries prioritized by TFM are exactly alike, the model of putting a diverse group of stakeholders together and finding answers is the common approach. “This partnership has grit,” said Brandon McPherson, TFM treasurer and financial adviser. “From the start of Task Force Movement, we said we didn’t want to be a group that just had a bunch of meetings and nothing really happened. We wanted to move the ball. When we kicked off with trucking, we wanted to get people trained and licensed. We kicked that off immediately. We got scholarships. We got people to support that.”
“I’m a big believer that a rising tide lifts all boats,” said Dave Harrison, executive director of workforce development for Fastport, a national career-placement company and TFM participant. “The wonderful thing about Task Force Movement is the White House put real emphasis on … public-private partnership. It takes leveraging labor, employers, CTEs … It takes everything. I have been working in this space, with veterans specifically in transportation, for a long time. A lot of the rough points are still there, but things are improving.”
The trucking portal led TFM into a collaboration last year with the U.S. Department of State by helping Afghan refugees who had assisted American forces during the war on terrorism re-start their lives in the United States – Operation Afghan Open Road.
Now, TFM is applying its recipe to the health-care industry. The shortage of providers nationwide has long been an issue, particularly in the Department of Veterans Affairs; recruitment and retention of VA nurses, doctors and specialists has occupied a high place on the Legion’s legislative agenda for most of the last decade.
Murphy said TFM’s success so far in trucking and cybersecurity led the administration to ask for the expansion to health care. “We have 2 million health-care professionals that we are short now, across America. Many of those are nurses, but we know that health care today is not episodic where you go once or twice a year to see a doctor. Health care is every single day – what you eat, how you exercise, are you sleeping well – those types of things.”
He added that the Legion’s Be the One initiative and recent collaboration with USAA to reduce veteran suicide drive the urgency of filling health-care positions. “It’s important that we launch this today – to make sure that we also ‘Face the Fight.’ What does that mean? The American Legion has joined forces with USAA and others … there’s an over $40 million campaign to face the fight. What’s that? We need to combat veteran suicide.”
TFM’s traction among veterans, spouses, employers, government agencies, educators, the military and others has unleashed a torrent of interest over the last year and a half, Belcaster explained.
“We get a lot of calls. We’re going to need a call center soon.”