Gardner, Crapo, Stabenow, Shaheen Reintroduce Improve Act to Provide Additional Resources For Active Military Returning to Civilian Life
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reintroduced the bipartisan Improving Preparation and Resources for Occupational, Vocational, and Educational (IMPROVE) Transition for Servicemembers Act (S. 1555). The IMPROVE Act would make reforms to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a multiagency program responsible for providing pre-separation counseling, training and assistance to servicemembers returning to civilian live and their families. S. 1555 is also co-sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
“When I speak to veterans across Colorado, they often express concerns with the adequacy of preparation and guidance provided to transitioning service members,” said Senator Gardner. “This bipartisan legislation will honor the immeasurable debt we owe to our military members and ensure our heroes receive training that will help them thrive outside of the military.”
“When a veteran transitions to civilian life after the military, he or she deserves readily-available information to help make that transition as seamless as possible,” said Senator Crapo. “Our bill ensures that our nation’s veterans and their families have access to adequate personalized resources, training and counseling needed to succeed and pursue their ambitions after their service to our country. It is imperative we have the tools available for separating servicemembers to reach their boundless potential by meeting their needs at this critical juncture of their transition.”
“Our men and women in uniform who fought for us overseas shouldn’t have to fight to get the services they need here at home,” said Senator Stabenow. “Making sure our veterans have the services they need when they transition to civilian life is one of the top concerns I hear about from veterans, and this legislation would be an important step forward in addressing this need.”
“We must provide our servicemen and women the necessary resources to build safe, healthy and full lives when they come home,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan bill makes important reforms to the Transition Assistance Program so our service members can more easily access the assistance they need and deserve to transition to the civilian workforce. In addition to enhancing career readiness and professional development, these reforms also improve federal and local coordination, which is an important step in reducing the tragically high rate of veteran suicide by ensuring that veterans have access to VA as well as state and local services. Congress should act immediately on this bipartisan bill that will benefit our veteran community."
Drawing directly from interviews with servicemembers, veterans, military leadership, transition counselors, employers and experts, S. 1555 includes several reforms, including:
- Instating earlier commencement and completion deadlines for participation in TAP to ensure servicemembers have adequate time to maximize available services;
- Maximizing in-person rather than online participation in TAP;
- Directing the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into agreements with state veterans services agencies to develop a database of and connect servicemembers to supportive services and organizations in the communities to which they are relocating;
- Making currently-optional 2-day specialized courses in entrepreneurship, career technical training, and higher education, with the addition of advanced employment assistance, mandatory curriculum in order to boost participation in and access to those courses;
- Requiring a ratio of at least one full-time or full-time equivalent TAP employee per 250 transitioning members and their spouses at an installation to ensure enough full-time personnel are available to meet servicemembers’ needs during transition;
- Requiring the creation of an electronic database to track individual progress in TAP and an online portal for servicemembers to access information and resources related to their personal transition;
- Establishing post-TAP and post-transition surveys in order to assess satisfaction with and effectiveness of TAP;
- Incorporating support for TAP and other transition-related programs into DOD command climate assessments and requiring new commanders receive information about transition and career-related programs unique to their installations;
- Ensuring servicemembers receive regular training at various touchpoints in their careers on career readiness, professional development, and transition-related programs available to them during their service as part of their Military Life Cycle; and
- Directing the Government Accountability Office to study access to TAP and other transition assistance programs at small and remote bases to assess any disparity in resources and access compared to larger bases.
The legislation further acknowledges the competing pressures on the Armed Forces in carrying out their essential function to defend the nation, while affirming the importance of an effective transition program to improving the lives and welfare of servicemembers and thereby the health and mission of the U.S. military overall.
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