When the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces, they challenged people across the country to ask themselves one simple question: “What can I do to honor veterans and military families who have given us so much?” Today, one day before our nation pauses to honor Veterans Day, the White House and Joining Forces would like to highlight a few of the many answers to that question.
Veteran employment has always been a focus for Joining Forces. Recently, we have seen numerous programs like Solar Ready Vets and TechHire that equip our veterans with the necessary skills for good-paying solar and tech jobs. Similarly, the Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) is another great example of an initiative that supports veterans transitioning back into the civilian workforce. HVRP grantees throughout the nation provide homeless veterans with the support they need — from employment counseling and housing, to clothing and medical support — to start working again.
But we have heard time and time again that transportation to and from work and job interviews is often a significant hurdle for homeless veterans trying to find work. If a veteran is working a night shift or employed in a remote area of a city, public transportation is not always a viable option and there is limited funding available for alternative transportation. Today, the First Lady and Joining Forces would like to thank ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft for stepping up to help address this problem. Both companies have committed to donating free rides to veterans — to be administered by the employment counselors who work with them every week. It is remarkable to see competitors come together to support our veterans.
Additionally, there is much that can be done to prevent veteran homelessness in the first place. For example, the PenFed Foundation is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide emergency financial assistance for Veterans who are experiencing unexpected financial setbacks and are may be at risk of becoming homeless. Similarly, the YMCA of the USA is also working with the VA to provide greater access to services in the areas of employment, health, and reintegration into the local community. Healthcare providers around the country are committing to learn more about serving veterans, service members, and their families through Joining Forces Wellness Week, a collaboration between the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Center for Deployment Psychology.
However, you do not need to be a company or non-profit to support our veterans. Building off of their commitment to HVRP grantees, Uber will enable riders to donate $5 towards a ride when they take one on Veterans Day, giving American citizens an opportunity to give back as well. Furthermore, Walmart has asked its customers to change one light in their home or office to glow green, as a symbol of appreciation for our veterans. Both financial and symbolic contributions from citizens help to support veterans and military families who have made sacrifices for our country.
As the First Lady has noted about helping America’s veterans, “There are so many ways you can make a difference, whether you’re a multinational name-brand, or a startup that’s just getting off the ground.” On behalf of Joining Forces, I would like to say “thank you” to these companies and non-profit organizations for answering the First Lady’s call.
Colonel Nicole Malachowski is the Executive Director of the Joining Forces Initiative