U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) this week introduced the bipartisan Improving Preparation and Resources for Occupational, Vocational, and Education (IMPROVE) Transition for Servicemembers Act.
The bill reforms the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program, which is charged with providing counseling, training, and assistance to servicemembers who are leaving the military for civilian life.
The IMPROVE Act will allow servicemembers to opt into a system that will send their contact information to their respective State Veterans Affairs Agency. This system will ensure that returning servicemembers and their families are properly connected to local community groups – including veterans service organizations – that can provide employment, healthcare, and other transition services.
“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.”
“I appreciate Senator Stabenow’s focus on making it easier for our servicemembers to transition to civilian life,” said Captain Robert Kutulis, retired U.S. Air Force and President of the Michigan Council of Chapters of the Military Officers Association of America. “This is one of the top concerns I raised with her at our meeting last year, and this legislation will address this important issue.”
During a series of roundtable discussions Senator Stabenow held across the state with Michigan veterans, commanders, and service providers, one of the top concerns raised was the difficulty servicemembers have in transitioning from a life in the military to civilian life.
There are a number of community resources available for transitioning veterans, but many veterans don’t know about them. At the same time, many organizations that offer assistance aren’t aware of people in their community who could use help.
The IMPROVE Transition for Servicemembers Act directs the Department of Defense to ensure that servicemembers receive regular information at different points in their military careers about professional development and education opportunities such as Military Tuition Assistance. The bill also creates greater accountability by requiring the Defense Department to ask veterans about their transition experience on a regular basis.