Task Force Movement & American Legion Conference

Task Force Movement & American Legion Conference

Dixon Center and other TFM-Trucking Partners at American Legion Conference in Milwaukee.
Dixon Center and other TFM-Trucking Partners at American Legion Conference in Milwaukee.

Several weeks ago, we introduced our readers to Task Force Movement: Life-Cycle Pathways for Veterans and Military into Trucking (TFM-Trucking), a coalition of veteran organizations, academia, and transportation companies with the mission to recruit transitioning service members, military spouses, and veterans into the trucking industry. As a coalition and steering committee member, Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services has been leading a series of convenings of military and veteran service organizations to both identify the barriers to entry for those from military-connected communities and also highlight solutions that are providing pathways into these high-paying careers.

At the recent American Legion Annual Conference in Milwaukee, Dixon Center along with other partners in TFM-Trucking shared some of our initial findings and engaged in discussions to turn these findings into actionable items that will create real impact for service members, veterans, and their families. Findings that include informing people about the opportunities in the trucking industry, but also informing employers about the potential and unique needs of service members, veterans, and their families.  Dixon Center is looking forward to sharing more with our supporters when the final report is published on Veterans Day this year.

At the conference Patrick Murphy, TFM Chairman, also announced the creation of Task Force Movement-Cyber Security. TFM-Cyber Security, similar to TFM-Trucking will pave the way to high-paying careers in cyber security.

Careers that will provide middle-class salaries, healthcare, and benefits along with recruiting talent into an industry that is becoming increasingly important to our national and economic security each year.

As with TFM-Trucking, Dixon Center will be taking a leading role to ensure that our transitioning service members, military spouses, and veterans have a shot at this vital and growing industry.

Dixon Center shares initial findings at American Legion Conference.
Patrick Murphy announces the launch of Task Force Movement-Cyber Security.

Creating Work with Purpose!

Creating Work with Purpose!

“As they proved during the pandemic and as they prove every day, utility workers are indispensable to our economy and our national security.”

James T. Slevin, National President, Utility Workers Union of America.

Positive outcomes for veterans and their families start with careers that provide purpose and recognize the experience and skills developed during their military service: careers that pay wages and salaries and provide benefits, that not only allow veterans to support themselves and their families, but to plan for and invest in their future; careers that provide affordable healthcare; and careers that offer advancement into positions of increasing responsibilities.

The Utility Workers Military Assistace Program (UMAP), part of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), is laser-focused on achieveing that goal for our veterans and their families by creating a pathway into an industry that is critical to strengthening our economy and vital to our national security. Even during the height of the pandemic, UWUA members were in the “trenches”, ensuring that people had access to clean water, electricy, and heat. UMAP is also taking the lead in  renewable energy and wind power and creating opportunities for veterans in these emerging industries.

And it’s about creating a culture based on the ideas of brotherhood and sisterhood. Four years ago, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with members of UWUA Local 18007 in Chicago. As I watched the members interact with each other, it reminded me of being around an infantry rifle squad in Afghanistan or Iraq—the camaraderie, the strong bonds, and the sense that you know that someone always has your back. This is why the 1,000+ veterans that have graduated the UMAP program are thriving.

Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services has been partnered with UMAP from the beginning, providing influence, ideas, and actions that have enhanced and increased the capacity of this successful program.

If you are an organization that wants to learn more about our work with the UWUA and creating work with purpose for veterans, contact Colonel (Ret.) Sam Whitehurst at swhitehurst@dixoncenter.org.

*Far right image: Col (Ret.) Sam Whitehurst, VP, Programs & Services, Dixon Center, speaks at UWUA Region IV Conference 

*Far left image: Rick Passarelli, Director, Veterans Affairs and Workforce Development, UWUA, updates members on UMAP

UWUA Region IV Conference, 11-13 August 2022

The PACT Act has passed!

The PACT Act has passed!

On Tuesday, August 2, 2022, the Senate passed historic legislation that will deliver all generations of toxic-exposed veterans their long-overdue VA health care and benefits. Named in honor of a veteran who died because of toxic exposure during his military service, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act will ensure that 3,500,000 toxic-exposed and post 9/11 veterans recevie the treatment they have earned, establishes 31 new VA facilities across 19 states, and boosts VA’s claim processing capacity and strengthen’s VA’s workforce.

On Wednesday, August 10th, the PACT Act will become law when President Biden signs it in a special ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House.

If you are an organization that supports veterans and their families, or if you are a veteran and believe you may be eligible for treatment and support due to your exposure to environmental toxins (e.g. burn pits), you can learn more about the PACT Act at VA.gov/PACT or by calling the VA at 1-800-MyVA411.

The PACT Act will benefit millions of veterans and there are many individuals and organizations who have been instrumental in passing this transformative legislation. But there are two people who stand out in their commitment and perseverance, Rosie and Capt. (Ret.) Le Roy Torres from Burn Pits 360. They have been on the forefront of this issue for years and it is no overstatement to say that it would not have passed without their leadership.

Burn Pits 360 is emblematic of the partners that Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services works with across our three pillars of work, Work with Purpose, Heal with Honor, and Live with Hope.

Dixon Center looks forward to continuing to work with Rosie and Le Roy at Burn Pits 360 in our noble purpose making the lives of veterans and their families better.

It’s important that we understand what unemployment looks like for veterans, it is just as important to understand what underemployment looks like as well. Being in a job where you have far less responsibility than you had in the military and the leadership, teambuilding, and the ability to adapt that you developed in the military are not recognized, or may not be held in high regard. On top of that, the difference between what you are making in a minimum wage, entry-level job is tens of thousand dollars less than what you earned in the military.

Underemployment creates a downward spiral that leads to other issues—living paycheck to paycheck, loss of self-esteem, increased stress and anxiety, and barriers to accessing high-quality healthcare.

At Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, our approach is to partner with organizations and programs who make countering veteran underemployment part of their core mission.

The United Association, a labor union that represents workers in the plumbing and pipefitting industries, is one of our partners and is a leader in creating opportunities for transitioning service members and their families. Through their Veterans in Piping program, an 18-week course that provides industry-recognized certifications in welding, fire sprinkler fitting, and HVAC-R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration), service members are leaving the military with guaranteed employment, enrollment into a registered apprenticeship program, and a career that provides middle-class wages from the outset, healthcare, and benefits. Dixon Center assists in integrating service members and their families into the UA VIP program by introducing the service members to wellness programs, that assist with finding a home, financial counseling, physical and mental health support, legal services, and more.

The UA VIP program is directly attacking veteran underemployment and is the recipe for long-term success for service members once they depart the military. This partnership, which along with Dixon Center, also includes the Department of Defense, is making a real difference in the lives of veterans and their families.

Task Force Movement

Task Force Movement

Task Force Movement is . . . [the] bridge between veterans and the trucking industry, . . . that bridge that needs to be more accessible to our brother and sister veterans.” Honorable Patrick J. Murphy, former Acting Secretary of the Army

Seventy-two percent of all goods in America are shipped by truck and we have all seen in recent years the critical role that all types of truckers have played and continue to play in driving our economy, from long-haul/over-the-road truckers to local city drivers. 

But . . . according to American Trucking Association, the trucking industry is experiencing a shortage of around 80,000 drivers. And that gap is expected to widen to over 160,000 by 2030.  This has created a “perfect storm” for our economy—an economy and a supply chain system incredibly dependent on trucking, but a transportation industry facing a widening gap in qualified, experienced drivers. We also should be focused on the negative national security implications that gaps in our transportation system create.

This is where Task Force Movement: Life-Cycle Pathways for Veterans and Military into Trucking, chaired by former Congressman and veteran Patrick Murphy, steps in—TFM is a partnership between the trucking industry and leading veteran organizations, including Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, to recruit and retain service members and veterans into an industry that pays an average of 60,000 to 80,000 a year. Well-paying careers that include affordable healthcare and benefits, the definition of work with purpose.

Thanks go to Patrick Murphy and Cassie Byard, TFM’s Executive Director, for their leadership in guiding this coalition as we work with our partners in industry, like ABF Freight, and our partners in the federal government, like DoL-VETS, to identify best practices and initiatives that will provide opportunities for the approximately 70,000 veterans who have certified trucking experience in the last five years.

Not only veterans, but also the over 200,000 service members who leave active-duty each year, including women service members and service members of color.

If you are an organization that wants to be part of this work in making  the lives of veterans and their families better, contact Colonel (Ret.) Sam Whitehurst at swhitehurst@dixoncenter.org.

Well Done Is Better Than Well Said

Well Done Is Better Than Well Said

This country has a long history of men and women making sacrifices for our freedom.

As we celebrate our freedom and our county’s independence this holiday with our families, we especially appreciate how actions across the country are enhancing the independence of those touched by military service. 

Independence is not driven by words but by actions. 

It is in our DNA as a country, an attitude across the nation, to want to assist those individuals who have served in uniform and their families. In the past few months we’ve seen this Sea of Goodwill in action. Soldier On kicking off new affordable housing for veterans in Massachusettes. Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinatti celebrating their service to 4,000 veterans and expanding direct services and facilities. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans expanding their collaborative training, and Bob Woodruff Foundation Got Your 6 training and education.

So this July 4th, please go beyond what you might usually do and get to know our veterans and their families through action. A little creativity and an inquisitive mind will turn up lots of opportunities to put your talents to good use.

For example, if you don’t support a food bank, would you consider doing so? It would mean a lot for veterans, spouses and children facing food insecurities. 

Your generous, tax-deductible, memorial or honorary tribute donation to Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services will make a positive difference in the lives of veterans and their families.  Don’t just make an investment. Have an impact.

In New England, our partners, Soldier On are building more affordable housing and outreach to veterans at risk of homelessness. Their outreach coordinators travel to the client, responding to needs while being unencumbered by office hours or locations. Donate so they can have the gas to travel.

We will pledge this to you. If you extend your thanks by taking some action, you will become an honorary member of a special network of people – then we can thank you for your service.

The Key to Supporting Veterans and their Families Where They Live . . . Collaboration!

The Key to Supporting Veterans and their Families Where They Live . . . Collaboration!

As a Soldier, you are always focused on security, always prepared for threats, no matter the direction. You are taught to be especially vigilant against threats from the direction where you expect them the least, from behind you. In the Army, we refer to this as ensuring that someone is always watching your “six,” or making sure someone has your “six” covered. That approach is found in all facets of military service—30 years as a Soldier, I always knew, that no matter the circumstances, I could always count on my fellow Soldiers to have my back, to cover my six.

That approach describes the Got Your 6 (GY6) Network, an initiative sponsored by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. GY6 is a network of communities, working together to impact the lives of veterans and their families in the communities where they live.  The GY6 network steers tools and resources to their national network of local partners, increasing their capacity and creating  a collaborative community that shares solutions to the evolving needs of veterans and their families—always ensuring that someone is covering their “six.”  

Recently, GY6 hosted the Got Your 6 Summit in New York City, bringing together community-based organizations that provide services to veterans and their families in New York. It was a day of collaboration as individuals and organizations shared what was working, what wasn’t, and developed innovative ideas to increase the well-being of veterans and their families.

Creating an environment where veteran serving non-profits, governmental organizations, philanthropists, academia and research organizations, and the private sector can come together and work toward a common objective is what made the GY6 Summit so successful.

This approach of increasing the capacity of organizations that serve veterans through collaboration, training, and resources also defines how Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services makes the lives of veterans and their families better across our three pillars of work, Work with Purpose, Heal with Honor, and Live with Hope.

Dixon Center looks forward to continuing to work with the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the Got Your 6 Network, and our other partners who are increasing the well-being of veterans and their families across the country

Photo One: John Avlon, CNN Sr. Political Analyst and General George Casey, 36th Army Chief of Staff at the Got Your 6 Summit

Photo Two: Meg Harrell, Bob Woodruff Foundation; Rajeev Ramchand, RAND; Sam Whitehurst, Dixon Center; and Carrie Farmer, RAND

Photo Three: Colonel (R) Sam Whitehurst, Dixon Center, at the Got Your 6 Summit

THERE HAS BEEN PROGRESS, BUT MUCH WORK REMAINS

THERE HAS BEEN PROGRESS, BUT MUCH WORK REMAINS

You can’t overestimate the importance of a safe, secure environment, a home, to the overall well-being of veterans and their families. Yet, even with the progress we have seen countering veteran homelessness in recent years, there is still much work to be done.

This was one of the messages during the recent National Coalition for Homeless Veterans Annual conference. NCHV is a national organization that helps shape public policy on ending veteran homelessness, advocates on behalf of homeless veterans, provides research on the complex issues surrounding veteran homelessness, and builds the capacity of organizations that are tackling veteran homelessness in their communities.

It’s clear that we are moving in the right direction—in 2020, there were just over 37,000 veterans who were homeless, a decrease of 6% from the previous year, along with a 10% drop in veterans using emergency shelters. But . . .

  • Veterans are still more likely to be homeless than non-veterans.
  • Black veterans are over-represented among the homeless veteran population (33%).
  • While numbers appear to be trending positively—COVID-19 severely impacted the ability to get accurate point-in-time counts of the homeless veteran population the last two years.
  • COVID-19 also significantly impacted the ability of community-based organizations that are on the frontlines attacking veteran homelessness.
  • 3% of service members leaving the military are likely to be homeless within two years of separation.

And we are also seeing increased pressures that could reverse the positive trends that we have seen in recent years—an economy buffeted by high inflation and the threat of recession, loss of COVID-19 protections against evictions, a tight housing market which has downstream impacts on the rental market—making it harder for most Americans, including veterans, to access affordable housing.

The high turnout at the NCHV conference is indicative of the passion and commitment of those that are continuing the fight against veteran homelessness. The theme of this year’s conference was Coming Together: Facing the Future—and that collaborative spirit was evident among the different groups that were present. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services looks forward to sharing the best practices discussed at the conference and continuing to work with our partners to ensure that veterans and their families Live with Hope–living in a safe, secure, and comfortable environment in harmony with a local community.

ELEVATOR CONSTRUCTORS UNION WELCOMES VETERANS TO FIND REWARDING CAREERS IN ELEVATOR INDUSTRY

ELEVATOR CONSTRUCTORS UNION WELCOMES VETERANS TO FIND REWARDING CAREERS IN ELEVATOR INDUSTRY

In an interview the General President of International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Frank Christensen and Colonel David Sutherland of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services discuss the importance of connecting veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce to meaningful employment opportunities.

The discussion touches upon the importance of education and training in the elevator industry as part of the solution to ensuring our nation’s heroes find careers they enjoy and are proud of upon reentering the civilian workforce.

The elevator industry continues its efforts to create a great place for transitioning military veterans in the trade. The goal is to provide veterans with opportunities to find fulfilling careers with family-sustaining wages and excellent health and retirement benefits.

You can watch the interview here.

LEVERAGING HIGHER EDUCATION TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS

LEVERAGING HIGHER EDUCATION TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS

Listen to the Service Before Self podcast, Episode 18, with Michael Brown, Director of the Office of Veterans and Military Service Members, at Villanova University. Michael and the team at Villanova have a proven model that assists student-veterans overcome the obstacles and challenges usually not faced by traditional students. Michael discusses how they have established a sense of community for student-veterans and their families at Villanova and how this has made all the difference.

Through Michael’s and Villanova’s leadership, and the leadership of organizations like Dixon Center, we will once again capture that transformative spirit that the original GI Bill sparked.

A factor contributing to the transformation of the American economy and society following World War II was the first version of the GI Bill—a pathway to higher education for both men and women veterans returning home (it’s important to note that while the GI Bill in theory, was open to all returning veterans from the war, in practice those benefits were often denied to Black veterans and other veterans of color).  The foresight in creating this opportunity, accelerated the country’s economic recovery and expanded the middle-class following World War II.

Today, we have the same goal for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, a pathway to higher education and increased opportunities for veterans but now, also their families. Pathways and opportunities that will transform our country.

And while student-veterans graduate at higher rates than traditional students, they and their families still have unique challenges and needs.  Typically, student Veterans are older, married with families, and work to support their families while they attend college. Research shows that close to 60% of student veterans report concerns about balancing school and other responsibilities. 

They Are Still With Us

They Are Still With Us

Midnight, on August 22, 2007, 10 young men marshalled together on a barren hilltop in Iraq to board a helicopter for the return trip to their forward operating base. They had just concluded a successful combat operation that had required them to remain in place for over 24 hours, with little sleep or food, while they ensured that resupply convoys were able to move safely and securely without enemy interference.

They were tired, dirty, and hungry and I’m sure they couldn’t wait to get back to our base where a hot shower and hot food awaited them. But they also knew that because of their efforts, their fellow Soldiers had been able to move freely and accomplish their key resupply mission.

But this would be their last mission. Shortly after taking off from that lonely, dusty hilltop, they along with the four helicopter crewmembers were killed when the helicopter suffered a malfunction and spun out of control into the ground.

These 14 soldiers are representative of the men and women I think about on Memorial Day.  Men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and whose commitment and dedication to their country and to each other represent the best in all of us. They are forever part of my memories and in my heart.

Even though they are gone, they continue to live through each of us, especially their families. I’ve met the families of the 10 men who boarded the helicopter that night and it’s an experience that I will never forget. Even against the backdrop of their sorrow, their resiliency and their strength is something that to this day I try to emulate. These young men continue to be part of their families, and their families continue to be part of me.

Memorial Day is about reflecting on the service and sacrifice of our fallen comrades but is also about the perseverance and strength of the living. This is the only day where the American flag is flown at half-staff from sunrise to noon, to honor our fallen comrades, and then raised to full height from noon to sunset, to represent our living veterans and symbolize the “persistence of the nation in the face of loss.” Those that we honor on Memorial Day, are still with us, in our hearts, in our families, and in the noble work of making the lives of veterans and families better.