Service members are better prepared for their transition to civilian life today than at any other time in history, reflecting the Defense Department’s commitment to taking care of its people, Ashish S. Vazirani said.
Vazirani, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, testified on a panel today at a joint hearing of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees on military-to-civilian transition.
“Our investments in our service members’ training and education, financial readiness, and health and well-being, coupled with the whole of government efforts to support their transition, are proving effective,” he said.
Veterans using the post-9/11 GI Bill are more likely to graduate and have a higher grade-point average than those of previous periods. Veterans are 20% more likely to be homeowners than their civilian counterparts. Also, veterans enrolled with the Department of Veterans Affairs have better health outcomes than their civilian counterparts, he said.
The VA-DOD Joint Executive Committee provides the framework through which the two departments jointly oversee the transition process. The Transition Assistance Program Executive Council, a subordinate committee, is responsible for ensuring the two departments are meeting statutory requirements and continuously improving the transition process, Vazirani said.
DOD and the VA “have made great strides in mental health support services, career advancement and educational resources, transitioning spouse employment assistance, and homelessness prevention just to name a few,” he said.
“It is our duty to ensure a successful service member is a successful veteran,” he added.
“Members of the military and their families repeatedly prove their dedication, courage and selflessness in protecting our nation. In return, our value proposition is to provide them with the support, services and resources they need to thrive beyond the battlefield,” he said.
Joshua D. Jacobs, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits, said that each year approximately 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life.
“For many, transition is an opportunity to take on new challenges and build the next chapter in their lives. For others, this time can be daunting and filled with a mix of emotions and uncertainties. It’s our duty to care for all types of veterans, regardless of where they are in this journey,” Jacobs said.
Veterans who use their earned benefits are healthier, they earn more, and they’re better set up for success as they enter civilian life, he noted.
Success or failure in connecting veterans with their benefits has lasting impact on the military’s ability to recruit future generations of service members, he said.
Service members are allowed to begin TAP one year prior to separation, or two years prior to retiring, he said.
“Attending TAP as early as possible in the transition process is critical for transitioning service members, given the vast amount of information they need to digest in a compressed timeframe. It also gives them the opportunity to access their earned VA benefits more quickly,” Jacobs said.
James Rodriguez, assistant secretary of the Department of Labor for veterans’ employment training, said his department helps prepare veterans, service members and military spouses for meaningful careers, provides them with employment resources and expertise, protects their employment rights and promotes their employment opportunities.
In fiscal year 2022, the Labor Department provided career-related instructions to more than 266,000 participants, which is an increase of more than 40% from the previous workshop record in fiscal year 2021, he said.
In fiscal year 2023, 97% of participants indicated they would use what they learned in their own transition planning and 95% reported that their confidence in transition planning was enhanced, Rodriguez said.
“Our long-term strategic goal for TAP is for the nation to recognize military service as a path to high-quality civilian careers. The future of the country’s all-volunteer force across the armed services depends on this recognition,” he said.