U.S. Navy photo

Legion lauds White House families focus

In a Jan. 24 White House briefing attended by American Legion leadership, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, reported on the progress of a comprehensive, multi-agency federal program to aid military families. The “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment” report tells of nearly 50 commitments by federal agencies responding to a directive by the president to establish a coordinated and comprehensive government approach to supporting military families.

“This unified, coordinated effort is ground-breaking and very welcome,” American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster said. “The Legion looks forward to working with the administration and federal agencies involved in the ‘Strengthening Our Military Families’ initiative to further our military family-oriented advocacy efforts.”

The report identifies various government partnerships designed to expand capacity and quality of military family services. Among them:

  • Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with the Department of Defense to confront, through preventive training and peer-to-peer counseling, the alarming rate of suicides within the military family and veteran populations. The agencies are also concentrating on improving child care within military families.
  • HHS, along with the departments of Housing and Urban Developmen, Veterans Affairs and Labor, have combined forces to eliminate homelessness among military veterans by 2015.
  • The departments of Labor, Defense and Commerce, and the Small Business Administration are working together to expand career opportunities for military spouses.
  • The Department of Agriculture is expanding its efforts to assist military families in rural areas, while the Treasury Department has instituted a program to educate military families about predatory lending and harmful consumer practices.

A major area of concern to The American Legion is the formal education of veterans and transfer of military skills to the civilian applications. In that regard, the departments of the Treasury, Transportation, Homeland Security and Defense are accelerating efforts to eliminate civilian professional licensing barriers and make more jobs available to veterans whose military training and experience makes them qualified.

“The Legion will be monitoring these laudable efforts closely,” said Foster, “and lending our experience, expertise and energies to the accomplishment of the government’s ambitious goals in support of military families.”

The White House briefing was attended by Peter Gaytan, executive director of the Legion’s Washington office.