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Creating a unified vision for our transitioning veterans

Follow Live: Changing the Conversation on Veteran Transition

June 22, 2017 49 minute Read
Ioanna Papas
For the first time, more than 70 veteran organizations are coming together to create a unified common vision to improve veteran outcomes during a new administration and the road ahead.

This concludes the Bush Institute-led Stand To

The view from Capitol Hill panel highlights—1:40 p.m.

What are some of the gaps in providing veteran benefits to women?

U.S. Representative Walz: Reproductive rights are an issue. Many facilities are not set-up to provide these services. We also don’t currently have a lot of older female veterans, but we will one day and we need to be prepared to treat them.

U.S. Representative Boozman: I heard from one veteran she went into a VA facility and someone asked her if she was looking for her husband. We need to change the views of who veterans are and how we can help them.

How do we ensure that these issues stay in a bipartisan space?

U.S. Representative Walz: Veteran service organizations are A-political and just want to get this right. We should be protective of our nonpartisan space.

 U.S. Representative Boozman: It’s important that the veteran service organizations stay non-political. We work very hard to push veteran solutions through in a bipartisan way. Getting the message out in a nonpartisan way is important.

Choice Program and the VA

U.S. Representative Boozman: There is no effort to dismount the VA, I understand how important it is and the veterans understand that too. But there are situations were veterans can’t get in and/or veterans have to travel very far. We came up with the Choice Program to help veterans.

U.S. Representative Walz: Don’t allow the VA and the idea of veteran health care to be a proxy fight to the government sector. We should allow a veteran to get their care where they live. We should bring the VA to the 21st century. I support the Choice Program and want to make it work and I support the VA mission and want to make that work.

  Employment Task Force Highlights—1 p.m.

Veteran skills: Veterans have tremendous respect for regulations and rules and corporations can benefit heavily from bringing those foundational skillsets to corporations. But, hiring folks need to understand the value of a veteran. They need to know the value of the skills that veterans can bring to a corporate environment. The stigma needs to be removed.

Retaining veterans: To retain veterans you have to be military friendly. Businesses can donate their services and time, as well as look for opportunities to help out veterans outside of the office. This helps promote a military friendly environment, all while supporting a great cause.

How important is it to get veterans in the right job?: It is important to provide a career for veterans. Extensive interview processes and recruiting is key to helping veterans find the right job within a company. On the job training can also be helpful in transitioning veterans into the workforce.  

Mentors: Finding a mentor in the business world can make a big impact. From little things like how to answer an email or bigger decisions like 401k allocations, mentors can really help shape the work and life of a veteran. It’s critical to coach veterans and help ease the transition into corporate setting. Companies should focus on ensuring veterans have that support system available and corporations can maximize the value that veterans bring.   

Education and Training Task Force Highlights—11:15 a.m.

Common misconceptions: There are often misconceptions of how veterans are doing in higher education. There is often a misunderstood notion that veterans aren’t doing well in the classroom. We measure GPA, and veterans are outperforming civilian counterparts in the classroom. Another misconception, is that veterans don’t graduate. What we have found is that nationwide graduation rate is 66 percent, veteran graduation rate is at 72 percent.

How can we help veterans be successful?: What we need to do is diagnose the problem very effectively and put a test together to understand the needs of veterans in higher education. There are too many acts of kinds and not enough of a streamlined approach. We also need to do a better job of credit transfer i.e. potentially recognizing their service as physical education. We need to make it easier for our veterans.

Veteran organizations: Student veteran organizations are a place for veterans to find mentors, advice and make connections. These organizations are vital on college campuses. They also help veterans navigate the complex avenues of higher education. We also need real-time instead feedback from veterans on what they need and how we can help them.

Employers and higher education: We need to be careful not to stigmatize that veterans are broken. I am afraid that the message employers get is not the right message. You have to make sure organizations understand the work ethic that veterans bring. There should also be collaboration from employers and organizations insisting that higher education institutions are held accountable and provide reports on veteran students.

Health and Wellbeing Task Force Highlights-- 11 a.m.

Learn more on how we are connecting veterans with best-in-class health care providers

What does success look like: One answer to that question, if you walk up to 2+ million veterans and their families and caregivers and ask the question “do you have the opportunity to thrive in this country?” and they answer “yes” that is success. Second, if the organizations helping veterans feel they are maximizing all their resources and contributions that is success.

Data is still needed: What we don’t have is a lot of data and ROI for the wellbeing space. WE are beginning to gather that data and understand the impact of nontraditional interventions (acupuncture, sports etc.), but we need to commit to gather more. Research can help us target our interventions and policies, but most importantly it can approve lives. So while we have some data, we need to reflect even more about how we are changing the lives of veterans.

What can we do differently?: It is important that we get out of our comfort zones and get to know other individuals in our communities who may have a different perspective or approach. We need to open ourselves up to open the dialogue and engagements.

What can we do differently?: We can't keep loosing 22 veterans a day to suicide. If you know a veteran that is not 100 percent back to the way they were, get them connected to something. Whether care based or community care based, all these programs are a great start to helping veterans heal. 

Mrs. Bush Remarks-- 10:15 a.m.

Thank you. Thank you all for the warm welcome. 

Thanks to Eric Eversole and Tom Donohue – thank you for hosting us at the US Chamber of Commerce today. 

A special thanks to Walmart and the Boeing Company – thank you for your generous support of the veteran community, and thank you for sponsoring the Bush Institute’s Stand-To. 

And to all the veterans and active military here today – thank you for your selfless service to our country.   

As many of the servicemen and women gathered here today know, you aren’t the only members of your family who serve -  your spouses serve as well. While our servicemen and women are deployed, their spouses are the ones taking care of everything at home. 

They care for the children, they manage family finances, and they pray that their husbands or wives in uniform return home safely. 

Master Sergeant Roque [Rocky] Rodriguez-Urena and his wife Marlene joined us at our ranch in 2013 and 2014 for the Bush Center’s annual Warrior 100K bike ride. 

When Marlene talked about Roque’s years of service in the Air Force she said: 

“We. I say We served 25 years. I lived every deployment with Roque. Every trial and tribulation. So the day that I said yes to him, I really did not realize the impact it was going to have on me.” 

And that’s why it is so important to make sure that, while our servicemen and women receive the support they need when they come home, that we care for their spouses and families, too. 

Today, we are discussing ways to improve veterans’ transition to civilian life – in the areas of Wellness, Education, and Employment. 

While there are over 4 million post-9/11 veterans, there are 8-10 million family members who would also benefit from those transition services.

So, we must consider how we can improve family and caregiver life in those areas as well. 

All any caregiver wants is for his or her family to be in good physical and mental health. 

But as veterans transition to civilian life, they deal with the stresses of uncertainty and finding new meaning in their lives. 

Visible wounds, post-traumatic stress and the lack of stability makes veterans more susceptible to issues like depression, addiction, homelessness, and even suicide. 

And of course, when one family member is suffering, the entire family suffers, leading to an increase in the risk of behavioral issues, anxiety and depression in military children, too. 

Just as veterans need good health care when they return home, caregivers need access to quality care for themselves and for their children. 

66% of military families say they have difficulty finding good and affordable childcare. And this is one of the reasons why military families are 27% less likely to have dual incomes. And why 21% of military spouses who want or need to work are unemployed. 

15% of military caregivers spend 40 hours a week caring for their veteran, and often spend even more time caring for their children when childcare is unavailable. 

In order to ensure that our caregivers have the opportunity to find meaningful work and contribute financially to their household, we need to ensure that caregivers and family members are eligible for the same transition services that are offered to veterans through the Government and the non-profit community. 

Steven Schwab is here today representing the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s mission is to create an America where military caregivers are empowered, appreciated, and recognized for their service to our nation.  

Through their Hidden Heroes Caregiving Community, caregivers around the country can access a digital forum where they can find emotional support for themselves and their families, where they can learn from other caregivers, and where that can discover resources and programs available in their own communities. 

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is a terrific example of a support group directed at improving the wellbeing of  our service members and the Bush Institute applauds their work. 

Veterans and caregivers want their children to be properly educated. But the average military family will move 6 to 9 times during a school career - an average of three times more frequently than non-military families. 

States and local school districts need to make sure that military children have equal opportunities for academic success. 

This means having teachers and school administrators who understand the challenges of relocating to a new school – the differences in achievement standards and course offerings, high school graduation requirements, extracurricular activities, and how difficult it is for students to create a new life in a new school.    

While there are plenty of organizations committed to supporting military children, few programs exist to assist with school transition and academic support. It is our responsibility to make sure that students are not at a disadvantage because they have a military parent. We need to place our military children on a path to success, preparing them for a bright future in college and beyond.   

Just like their spouses, studies show that caregivers’ primary concern when transitioning to civilian life is employment -- their own employment.

Military spouses often spend their marriage moving their family around the country, and around the world. On average, military families move to a community every 2-3 years, making it hard to keep a job.  This displacement causes periods of unemployment, and a weak professional network. 

Most military families need two incomes — too many are forced to live paycheck to paycheck — and 80% of military spouses say that their job search has caused stress within their marriage. 

Some companies already recognize that hiring military spouses isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. La Quinta Inns is one of those companies. As a member of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, they are helping military spouses find jobs and they are providing the training to help them enter a new career field. 

And just this week, Starbucks committed to hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018, and 25,000 hires by 2025. 

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, La Quinta Inns and Starbucks are just a few organizations that have identified themselves as leaders in helping our veteran caregivers and families in the transition to civilian life.  And I am grateful for their example. 

I also want to thank other 70 plus organizations represented here today – government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, academia and philanthropy. Thank you for your commitment to our veterans. And as you work to improve veterans’ transition, I ask that you also consider how you can support the hidden heroes – the spouses, fathers, mothers, the children, and loved ones who serve our country too.

Military families are American families. They have the same priorities – to create a nurturing home, to take care of their loved ones, to find a strong education for their children, and to be financially secure.  And they do so with more difficulties and more obstacles.

I’m reminded of the old line that the dancer Ginger Rogers did, she said she did everything that the great Fred Astaire did — except that she did it backwards and in high heels.  Military families are Ginger Rogers times ten.

Our military is the strength of our nation, our service members are the strength of our military, and our caregivers are the strength of our veterans and wounded warriors.  Their devotion to our men and women in uniform, and their commitment to their marriage, their family, and to our country is an inspiration to us all.

Thank you and God bless you.

Secretary David Shulkin is having a conversation with Politico moderator Bryan Bender. Here are a few snippets from that conversation. 

Veterans and employment: “We know our veterans are natural leaders and people look up to them. It does not surprise me that we see veterans rising to the senior ranks of organizations.”

What should we be doing to help veterans?: “We have many American families who don’t even know people who have served or are currently in the military. Part of our responsibility at the VA and community groups is that we make sure we let people know not only what these young men and women do when they raise their hand to serve their country, but what we can do to help them.”

“People return, and except for fellow veterans, most people around them in work and life don’t understand what they are going through. We have to do a much better job of getting people in the country to understand how we can support our veterans when they return.”

Thoughts on the VA health system: “Our current disabilities system that is designed from 50, 60, 70 years ago, I would suggest it is not sustainable. I do believe that we need to start having a discussion and dialogue, not withdrawing our commitment, but how can we enhance the outcomes. This will be a difficult discussion to have. This is one, if not done will, could become politicized. The VA has done great job of keeping itself in a bipartisan dialogue.”

President George W. Bush Remarks Excerpt-- 9:30 a.m.

Later today, across the street from here there will be a bill signed at the White House signed by Democrats and Republicans to better the VA system. But, if anyone can reform the VA you can, you are strong leaders and we are lucky to have you service our country.

We have a lot of vets here today, and a lot of their families, please stand so we can recognize you. **applause**

You know I tell people all the time, we are a fortunate nation to have millions volunteer to face danger. Our vets are tremendous asset. These are folks who got a PH.D. in life without going to college. They learn a lot, but the question is, how can we help them?

One of the issues I hear a lot from veterans is that I want to work, how can I find meaningful employment? We have a joint venture with the U.S. Chamber to help our vets transition and help the private sector understand what vet speak means.

One of the things that prevents vets from realizing their dream of working is the invisible wounds of war. There is a stigma with post-traumatic stress. Notice we dropped the “D”, if you label someone with a disorder they are discouraged. In order to help defeat the stigma of post-traumatic stress we needed to drop the D.

Peer-to-peer council really works well. The best way a vet can get help, is seek a fellow vet and talk about their problems. There are a lot of people here who work with their peers. Our mission at the Bush Center is to help vets who want to be helped.

So how can we help the vets transition? I am confident the work we are doing here today will really make a big difference. That is why it is important to take the work seriously and come up with recommendations and action plans to make a difference.

Today we are announcing a Veteran Leadership Programs. Applications for the program will be made available on bushcenter.org. I am confident this program will make a lasting impact not only for our vets, but those helping our vets.

Ken Hersh, President and CEO— Today’s topic is very important, how do we collaborate, and really collaborate to help our post-9/11 veterans make a successful transition? Health and wellbeing, education and meaningful employment are the important issues that need to be addressed to help transition our veterans.

Today, there are more than 45,000 organizations who want to help and are committed to helping our veterans. But, often, these organizations work in isolation. In order to foster collaboration, we brought more than 70 organizations together and the last 6 months they discussed key priorities and action items to better veteran needs.

If we are successful, we will make a dramatic impact. What better way to start today than hearing post 9-/11 veterans. It is an honor to introduce and pass the microphone to Michael Rodriguez, Fontaine Wilson and Florent Groberg

My name is Michael Rodriguez and I am a post-9/11 veteran, I’m the husband of a post-9/11 Veteran and also the proud father of a post-9/11 Veteran. I served for 21 years in the U.S. Army, 15 of which were as a Special Forces Green Beret. 

People often ask me “What happened?” or “Where are your injuries?”. The most memorable time when someone asked me this question was almost 5 years ago by my youngest son who was six at the time. He saw the decline in my health as I attempted to hide my injuries, for all my wounds were invisible. He wanted to know what was wrong with his father so like a good son he asked me one day. “Daddy what’s wrong?” I was struck with his inquisitiveness but more so by his true sincerity and compassion. So we sat down with some of paper and pencil, children are such great visual learners. I started to write down to the best of my knowledge every time I was injured, whether it was the IED blast while on patrol, or fall from a building or was struck by a vehicle or fell 30 feet from a fast rope. This required a whole lot of stick figures and crude sketches, I am nowhere near the artist President Bush is so it was pretty rough. I mean really how do you describe what its like to be inches from an explosive breeching charge to a six year old? This explanation took several sheets of paper, and a considerable amount of time, lucky for me my son was attentive for once. This review of injuries was something I had never done myself even when I had been a patient at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. When I finished I looked at my son and said “You understand now?” He looked at me  and said “OK I got it Daddy” and proceeded to walk away. I was shocked he had no questions, I mean after that in depth review of injuries I sustained, I had my own. So I was curious and I stopped him and asked “Mijo do you have any questions?” his reply was “No”. So I asked. “What does all this mean to you? What did you learn from this?” He looked me straight in the eye and said “MY Daddy is hard to kill”, and just like that I was reminded of the wonder and innocence of a child’s mind as well as their ability to always see the beauty, strength and positive aspects of life that we as adults sometimes over look. I realized that no matter what daily obstacles each of us face, they are meant to be overcome and no obstacle is too great. Through identification of my obstacles and facing the invisible wounds of war like PTS and TBI I found my enemy. As we all know in order to effectively engage the enemy you must clearly identify it. The onus was on me and I started to wage a war I was not necessarily trained to fight in but I took the fight to my enemy, sometimes in the form of my very own art.  

TODAY I am not ashamed to say I have PTS and TBI, I have invisible wounds of war and I eagerly face these obstacles daily. Taking ownership of my own fight not only brought me here today but has been key to my successful transition.

My name is Fontaine Wilson and I am a post 9/11 veteran. I served six years in the United States Navy as a Nuclear Machinist Mate onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). I was able to travel the world while completing 2 deployments to the Persian Gulf. While traveling has always been my passion, the real reason I joined the Navy was the opportunity to earn a college education without the debt. It would not have been possible without the Post 9/11 GI Bill and a supportive community backing me along the way.

I remember my senior year of high school, I had just received my acceptance letter to my #1 college choice. I was beyond excited and couldn’t wait to tell my parents. Then my mother let me know we couldn’t afford it. It crushed me. I had worked so hard in school, always on the honor roll, AP classes, and one of the top students in my class, only to be told, we can’t afford it. Now looking back, it’s funny how something that looks like a disadvantage or setback at the time, can really be the turning point and foundation that defines who you are. I was determined to find a way on my own, so I joined the United States Navy.

Silly of me, I wanted a challenge, so I decided to join the Navy’s nuclear program, known as the most demanding academic program in the U.S. military. After spending 45 hours per week in the classroom and an additional 20 study hours outside of the class, I almost gave up on my plan to go back to school.

But it was that discipline and work ethic that got me through some of my hardest academic moments of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Houston. I know after learning how to operate a nuclear reactor, it seems like school would have been a breeze, but it wasn’t. I still felt like a lot of time had passed since I was in a traditional classroom. I couldn’t relate to the 18 and 19 year olds in my classes. I missed the Navy family that I left. But, what helped was when I finally connected with other veterans on campus.

Through the Veterans Service Office and Student Veterans of America, I felt like I found my family again. Those who understood what it was like to serve in the military and were going through the transition just like I was. I became a work-study student at the Veterans Service Office and cofounder and then president of Student Veterans of America at the University of Houston.  This was a key moment in my transition; developing and challenging me as a leader. My vision was to create a community focusing on camaraderie, academics, and professional development in order to create a successful transition from military service into an academic environment and on to a promising career. When our chapter won chapter of the year for our programs and student involvement, I knew that was confirmation that we succeeded in creating that community.

Today I am an Operational Excellence Engineer at MRC Global. It was my Navy Nuclear background that actually got me the job there. I’m thankful that at MRC Global they support and even encourage my involvement, outside of work, with the veteran community. Being able to earn my college education with the Post 9/11 GI Bill while having a community to lean on, serve and grow with has been key to my successful transition.

My name is Flo Groberg and I am a post-9/11 veteran. I served in the United States Army for 7 ½ years and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015 for actions on 8 August 2012.

First of all, it is an honor to stand on stage with so many incredible individuals dedicating their lives to making a positive impact in our veteran community. Whether it is through wellness, education, or workforce transition, we have a lot of work in front of us. When I transitioned out of the Military as a wounded warrior, I was lost. Yet, while recovering at Walter-Reed, I realized – with the help and support of my friend Travis Mills, a wounded warrior and quadruple amputee – that I was in fact, one of the lucky few who was given a second chance at life and now had the opportunity to change the world for the better. 

So, I put my inner warrior back to work. And with the help of my teammates and my support system, I defeated my demons.  But it was a fight.

I spent years working to identify my purpose. I never thought that my skill sets and experiences within the military could transfer to corporate America. Like the many service members transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce, I didn’t know how to transfer my skills, write an effective resume, explain that resume in a way that business understood and valued, or network. All I knew was how to be an infantryman – I probably didn’t have the right skills to become a businessman.

I was wrong. My friend Jared Shepard, the founder of Warriors Ethos, was a veteran that understood my fears of transitioning. He offered me a hand up, not a handout, and this was instrumentally important to me. For me it was a risk worth taking, and we shook on it. Jared and his team helped me craft a resume, and together we built one that re-told my military experiences into civilian strengths. Next, we rehearsed everything in my resume to make sure that I was able to accurately and efficiently articulate myself. We spent hours conducting mock interviews. We worked on my etiquette and even discussed how to professionally dress. I listened to Jared and his team’s advice, and I quickly adapted to my new environment.

Today, I am the Director of Veteran Outreach for the Boeing Company, and I am part of a team that consists of more than 20,000 self-identified veterans. Boeing hired me because they saw that the military strengthened my character; taught me about competence, drive, courage, and stamina; and instilled in me a hunger to always aim for success in everything I set out to do, all keys to my successful transition.

Welcome to Day 2 of the Bush Institute-led Stand To

Day 1 Conclusion-- 4:45 p.m.

Each task force has been asked to provide a brief read out of how their discussions went and what recommendations they believe are key to changing veteran transition. 

Employment Task Force:

  • There is a need for private and public partnerships. Have a central point in the White House where people can convene and policies can be created.
  • Data is going to be critical as we move forward. We need to be able to share data, understand how to hire, recruit and maintain veteran talent. 
  • Tremendous need for a marketplace of resources. Continue leveraging the marketplace that the Bush Institute created and collaborate more together to really stock the shelves with the best in class resources. 

Education Task Force: 

  • Include higher education organizations more. We preach to the same choir, but don't include higher education institutions in those conversations. Need to start including them in the room. 
  • Specific ask to industry, when you show up to a campus for recruitment ask "where are the veterans?" Industry has a lot of influence in higher education and we need to use that influence. 

Health and Wellbeing Task Force: 

Vision: Empower veterans, families and caregivers to thrive. 

  • We want to work with our partners in education and in employment and elevate health and wellbeing to ensure our communities are working together. 
  • Focus on modernizing the VA and the VA healthcare system.
  • Address our knowledge gaps and improve data sharing among the sectors we work in and organizations we represent. Also, ensure we are including studies and evaluations. 
  • Need to improve integration and coordination within our own communities.


The health and wellbeing task force has broken out into individual groups to discuss the outlined key areas of focus. 

  • Empower veterans, their families and their caregivers to achieve optimal health and wellbeing through improved and streamlined service delivery that links the public and private sector. 
  • Elevate health and wellbeing to be on par with education and employment initiatives to ensure overall veteran wellbeing across all sectors. Integrate wellness efforts with education, training and employment efforts and initiatives
  • Modernize the VA healthcare system through enhanced partnerships, realigned authorities and regulations, improved policies and expanded outreach
  • Address knowledge gaps through improved data sharing and increased research on veteran wellness and evaluations of program efficacy and effectiveness
  • Improve integration, coordination and value/quality of efforts across all sectors by building upon lessons learned and enhancing community based efforts. 
  • Engage the "rest" of the US in the mission to help veterans be at their optimal health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing task force-- 3 p.m.

Harriet Dominique, USAA: In my space, I am dealing with so many individuals who have no understanding of what we are trying to do here. But once people understand, they feel a moral obligation to take up the fight on this. I want to think how can we get individuals who are not in the 45,000 organizations get involved and help veterans? 

The task force has identified another strategic investment that we need to address: Engage the "rest" of the US in the mission to help veterans be at their optimal health and wellbeing

There has been a lot of discussion about the VA and the resources that are not being used. Approximately, 1/3 of veterans do not use VA healthcare resources. The conversations have revolved around solutions to help veterans enroll in the VA healthcare system and use the resources that are available to them. 

There was a unanimous vote that  there does need to be a focus on the VA System and discussing how to better the services.

Health and wellbeing task force-- 2:45 p.m.

The task force has voted on their overall vision: "Empower military/veteran community to thrive"

Health and Wellbeing task force-- 2:30 p.m.

After discussion, the task force has decided to combine a few of the key areas, updated below:

  • Empower veterans, their families and their caregivers to achieve optimal health and wellbeing through improved and streamlined service delivery that links the public and private sector. 
  • Elevate health and wellbeing to be on par with education and employment initiatives to ensure overall veteran wellbeing across all sectors. Integrate wellness efforts with education, training and employment efforts and initiatives
  • Modernize the VA healthcare system through enhanced partnerships, realigned authorities and regulations, improved policies and expanded outreach
  • Address knowledge gaps through improved data sharing and increased research on veteran wellness and evaluations of program efficacy and effectiveness
  • Improve integration, coordination and value/quality of efforts across all sectors by building upon lessons learned and enhancing community based efforts. 

Spencer Milo, Marcus Institute for Brain Health: By truly empowering veterans, we need to come together and stop providing them 47,000 options. I look up veteran resources and I get bombarded. I have no idea what is good and what is not. 

There has been a lot of discussion about the VA and the resources that are not being used. Approximately, 1/3 of veterans do not use the VA resources. The conversations have evolved around solutions to help veterans enroll in the VA healthcare system and use the resources that are available to them. 

Terri Tanielian, RAND Corporation: Should one of our strategic objectives be a focus on the VA System? 

There was unanimous vote that there does need to be a focus on the VA System. 

Health and Wellbeing task force-- 2:15 p.m.

Zach Iscol, HeadStrong Project: You can't have health and wellbeing without education and employment, and you can't have education and employment without health and wellbeing. 

Bill Rausch, Got Your 6: Raise your hand if you believe today that over the last few years, health and wellbeing has been at the same level of employment and education? 

Only two individuals raised their hands. 

Shelley MacDermind Wadsworth, Military Family Research Institute: Tons of money being spent on medical care, so it is a tier one issue because more money going there than in education and employment. But the orphan is "wellbeing." We need to elevate wellbeing and get people to start seeing that as a need. 

After much discussion there has been agreement by the task force that the focus of wellbeing should be "veterans and the military community need to thrive across all dimensions of physical health, mental and emotional health, community and relationships and purpose and identity."

Terri Tanielian, RAND Corporation: We are leaders and if we all believe and agree to the same points, we will end up leading the civilian community.

Health and wellbeing task force-- 2 p.m.

The task force did a survey to identify key areas that need to be addressed in health and wellbeing:

  • Empower veterans, their families and their caregivers to achieve optimal health and wellbeing through improved and streamlined service delivery that links the public and private sector. 
  • Elevate health and wellbeing to be on par with education and employment initiatives to ensure overall veteran wellbeing across all sectors
  • Integrate wellness efforts with education, training and employment efforts and initiatives
  • Modernize the VA healthcare system through enhanced partnerships, realigned authorities and regulations, improved policies and expanded outreach
  • Address knowledge gaps through improved data sharing and increased research on veteran wellness and evaluations of program efficacy and effectiveness
  • Improve integration, coordination and value/quality of efforts across all sectors by building upon lessons learned and enhancing community based efforts. 

These will be the points that guide today's discussion. 

Health and Wellbeing Task force-- 1:45 p.m.

JJ Pinter, Team Red, White, and Blue: Two lines of thoughts of who was in this room. We wanted to have diversity in sector, size of organizations, organizations that you don't typically hear from as part of this group. We wanted to cast a net as wide as we could. We also wanted a group of people that could contribute and will contribute. Everyone is here for a reason. 

Terri Tanielian, RAND Corporation: Your voice needs to be the most powerful and be a voice for those who are not here.

Task force groups have now broken out. We will be sitting in on the health and wellbeing task force. 

Health and Wellbeing, JJ Pinter-- 1:25 p.m.

Health and wellbeing is one of these things everyone intuitively thinks is important, but it is hard to define. As a task force, everyone has different opinion and vision of what that means. So the first thing we did was define terms;

  • Physical Health: The foundation upon which all other dimensions are built. This component of wellness includes wound and injury treatment, physical rehabilitation, fitness, disease prevention, mobility, obesity, and brain health.
  • Mental and Emotional Health: This can be tied closely to physical health, but presents a unique set of challenges, and thus requires a unique set of solutions. We are all concerned about the invisible wounds of war and understand that both preventative and acute treatment are extremely important. This component covers addressing everything from isolation and depression to post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation.
  • Community and Relationships: Family and social support has proven to be a key driver of overall quality of life. This dimension is focused on how veterans connect with their families, communities, and each other during the post-military transition. While some veterans suffer from a lack of available resources, many more struggle with recognition and willingness to engage with helpful resources. Social support can help to reduce this gap.
  • Purpose and Identity: Many veterans struggle with an acute loss of purpose and identity when taking off the military uniform. We need to find ways to engage veterans with meaningful endeavors and activities. We must also help veterans reconcile their new identity and empower them to leverage the skills and experiences they’ve acquired during their time in the military.

Health and wellbeing is linked to education and employment. You can’t look at these focus areas in a silo and we are going to flesh this out further.

Education: Dr. Mike Haynie and Jared Lyons-- 1:20 p.m.

The post GI Bill is the most generous investment in education available to veterans. If you look back, the first GI Bill changed society and was one of the most important pieces of legislation in our history. We have an opportunity to do the same with the post-9/11 GI Bill.

Higher education institutions have not stepped up in a meaningful and significant way. You don’t see leaders of institutions, particularly colleges and universities, coming to meetings like this. Everything we know from we did for the Bush Institute is to change the challenges that transitioning veterans face is by educating our veterans.

Today will be one of the first opportunities we have had to discuss how higher education institutes can really have a role in transitioning our veterans.

The idea of veterans transitioning through higher education onto successful careers and lives, is not a new one. It dates back to the American Revolution. This is an important conversation to have and put numbers too. Nearly 15 billion a year will be spent on this.

What’s different about this event: We are having a conversation about the role education has in veteran transition.

Employment Task Force: Eric Eversole, Hire our Heroes-- 1:15 p.m.

I can't tell you how excited we are to be here today, to have this discussion. As many of you know the chamber hired our heroes a few years ago. We have seen tremendous improvement in unemployment numbers the last few years. There has also been tremendous change in this space. Change like focusing on retention and finding the right fit for veterans and their families. We are not just hiring veterans abut benefit form the skills they bring to the workforce. 

One of the things I thought as we looked across the space, it's time to take a step back and collectively look at what we have done in the employment sector and ensure that our service members and families have the tools they need. 

We met with multiple companies and organizations these past six months. That first meeting was lets take a step back and analyze the space, what is going well, what areas can we improve? The second meeting really focused on recommendations and as we get into this new administration and improve and become more effective what can we do in the future to be better? 

As many of you will see, we have put together a task force report that really captures the problems and challenges we see that exist. It also gives recommendations and is a starting point to further the conversation for the larger collective group to better learn from you experiences and put out an understanding of where the challenges exist and opportunities lies. And most importantly, how we as a community can do better. 

Opening Remarks by Colonel Miguel Howe, USA, Ret.-- 1 p.m. EST

Stand-To is a national veteran’s summit that convenes senior government, business, higher education, non-profit and philanthropic leaders to establish a strategic framework, and address key cross sector priorities and next steps to improve veteran transition outcomes with a focus on employment, education and health and wellbeing.

Our goal is to synchronize effort, and to empower every veteran and his or her family to lead a full and meaningful life by achieving optimal health and wellbeing, and leveraging education and employment opportunities.

With the transition of a new administration this event provides the opportunity for leaders from business, higher-education, non-profits, and philanthropy to come together with public sector officials to address key priorities and next steps to drive improved outcomes for veterans and their families.
Stand-To comprises a half-day dedicated to issue specific task force meetings (health and wellbeing, employment, and education), and tomorrow’s large scale plenary sessions and networking opportunities to address three objectives:

  • Establish a common: vision, strategic framework, and cross sector priorities to advance veteran issues; 
  • Educate and inform policymakers on achievements, gaps and opportunities to advance positive veteran outcomes;
  • Present a unified collective voice of the organizations participating in the work while accelerating relationships and networks across all sectors.

Stand-To is not the effort or product of one organization, this is not just the Bush Institute, but the collaboration and cumulative work of cross sector stakeholders – who have been working together deliberately towards this effort for six months. But it also leverages your collective experience and expertise of your experience working in this space.

This is the first time that three distinct efforts – are now linked, and addressed together across the entire space: employment, education, and health and wellbeing.

If we do this right, we will move the needle by establishing a common strategic framework and cross sector priorities, priorities in each of those issue areas, but also priorities that span those issues areas. By doing so,you, will help shape and drive, legislation, policy, resourcing, programming, messaging, public-private partnerships, data and evaluation and outcome accountability, that will all better impact every organization in this room and in this space, but importantly outcomes for those we all serve.

That framework, and those priorities, as well as tomorrow’s large scale discussion, will be informed by the task forces working today. And so before we move off into those functional efforts, I want to ask the Task Force co-chairs to come up and talk about their respective membership, and effort today.
Starting with Employment….
Health and Wellbeing….

Live blogging will begin at 1 p.m. EST

More than 45,000 philanthropic organizations, government programs and initiatives, large and small corporations, and millions of individuals are committed to addressing veteran transition. But often, these organizations work in isolation, causing confusion and disjointed gaps in service for transitioning veterans and their families. 

Since January, three Bush Institute-led veteran task force groups have focused on education, employment, and health and wellbeing - the three issues that research shows are key to a successful transition. The task force members, made up of representatives from the business, non-profit, government and academic sectors, are discussing and sharing their recommendations today. These conversations are offering an opportunity to find solutions and a unified common vision to improve veteran outcomes during a new administration and the road ahead.