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First Lady Jill Biden reboots Obama-era plan to support military, vet families

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visits National Guard members outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 22, 2021. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
April 07, 2021

On Wednesday, First Lady Jill Biden met with U.S. military families and advocates to relaunch a White House initiative to support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors with employment and education opportunities and physical, social, and emotional health support.

The White House announced the plan as a new phase of the First Lady’s “Joining Forces” initiative focused on partnering government, the business community, and non-profit organizations to support military families. The initiative was first started by former First Lady Michelle Obama during the Obama administration and is now being restarted under the Biden administration.

Biden said, “Military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors may not wear a uniform, but you serve and sacrifice for us all.”

“So much of a ship’s power is unseen beneath the waves: the engines, the anchor, the rudders that give it direction and purpose,” the First Lady continued. “You are the rudder that steers our military, and supporting your physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.”

The White House said, “Military families face the same challenges as any other working families, but they have the added stressors of multiple deployments, frequent moves with little control over their geographic location, caregiving, family separation, and more.”

The White House said the military spouse unemployment rate is approximately 22 percent, a rate nearly four times higher than the current 6.2 percent unemployment rate, which rose in 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The White House noted frequent moves combined with state licensing requirements, child care (costs, long waitlists for on-base providers, and lack of access to off-base providers), caregiving, and deployments, all exacerbate the challenges for military spouses seeking employment.

“‘Joining Forces’ will work with government at all levels and the non-profit and private sectors to mitigate these challenges and drive economic opportunities,” the White House said. We will work with employers to create more flexible, transferable, and remote job opportunities for military spouses, as well as increasing resources for those interested in entrepreneurial endeavors. We will also ensure that military families are included in the administration’s overall policies aimed at improving economic security for all families.”

The White House noted frequent moves can also be challenging from childhood education. “‘Joining Forces’ will advance programming to support military-connected children in their classrooms, and help ease the burdens created by the highly mobile military lifestyle.”

The White House further said that while the U.S. tries to provide support for wounded veterans, the families of U.S. veterans also “shoulder the weight” of caring for their wounded family members and, as a result, “may experience mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.” The White House said it will “work closely with service providers in the civilian community to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to effectively support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.”