First lady Jill Biden, accompanied by a virtual audience of military families, advocates, and stakeholders, announced the priorities of the relaunched Joining Forces initiative April 7. Representatives of MOAA and many members of The Military Coalition (TMC) were up on the screen behind the first lady and happy to highlight support for military families as a priority.
Joining Forces was first introduced in April 2011, with MOAA as an original member, by then-second lady Biden and first lady Michelle Obama. It was established to motivate and harness support across the public and private sectors on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.
“Military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors may not wear a uniform, but you serve and sacrifice or us all,” Biden said during the April 7 announcement.
After spending months hearing directly from members of the military community at installations across the nation, as well as federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporate leaders, Biden highlighted the issues Joining Forces will focus on: employment and entrepreneurship, military child education, and the health and well-being of military families. Progress in these areas has a direct link to military readiness and national security.
She highlighted several MOAA family priorities during her speech. One example: MOAA and other TMC members have championed food insecurity legislation this year – MOAA has made it one of three Advocacy in Action topics – and Biden has included it as a priority for Joining Forces. Legislation such as H.R. 2339, the Military Hunger Prevention Act, would provide a Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) for junior military families struggling to put food on the table. A Senate companion is bill coming soon.
Rory Brosius returns to Joining Forces as executive director after serving as the program’s deputy director during the Obama-Biden administration. She is the spouse of a Marine Corps veteran and family member of numerous servicemembers; her history as a strong, engaged advocate for the military community made her the natural choice for this new position.
The first lady “understands that the families of our service members and veterans, caregivers, and survivors deserve the White House’s attention and focus now and in the long term,” Brosius said.
With the feedback voiced from the military community, advocates, and stakeholders during numerous in-person and virtual listening sessions with the first lady, Joining Forces will pursue the following specific initiatives in each of the aforementioned categories:
Employment and Entrepreneurship
DoD’s 2019 Active Duty Spouses Survey indicates the spouse unemployment rate hovers around 22%. Frequent moves, state licensing requirements, childcare issues (costs, waitlists, and lack of access), caregiving concerns, and deployments contribute to challenges unique to the military spouse community’s ability to keep a career on the move.
Joining Forces plans to work with all levels of government, as well as the nonprofit and private sectors, to alleviate these challenges and provide economic opportunities. The goal is to work with employers to create more flexible, transferable, and remote job opportunities for military spouses and to provide enhanced resources for entrepreneurship. Military families will be included in the administration’s overall policies aimed at improving economic security for all families.
Military Child Education
More than 2 million military children are in classrooms across the U.S. These children face multiple moves, extended separations from family members, and increased fear for the safety of their military parent(s) during deployments. It is crucial to keep in mind the lifelong impact of service on military-connected children.
Joining Forces will expand programming to support this population within the classroom environment in an effort to help ease burdens that are a direct result of the highly mobile military lifestyle.
Health and Well-Being
The overall physical, social, and emotional health of military families are key components to a strong national defense. Many military family members experience mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse; caregivers can experience significant impacts on personal health, financial stability, and economic security; and too many military families face food insecurity. The global pandemic has only intensified these stressors.
Joining Forces will work to ensure service providers in the civilian sector have the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.
MOAA looks forward to again actively engaging with the administration on Joining Forces initiatives to improve the health and well-being of our unformed servicemembers and veterans, and their families.
Every Officer Has Two Families
For over 90 years, MOAA has been working to get servicemembers and their families the benefits they deserve.