07/30/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/30/2021 09:50
WASHINGTON - Inspired by programming offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today introduced the Onward to Opportunity Act. This bipartisan bill aims to help military families make a more seamless transition to civilian life by expanding workforce development services for servicemembers, veterans, and their spouses. Rep. Katko introduced this bill alongside U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21), Mikie Sherrill (D, NJ-11), Andy Kim (D, NJ-03), Jim Baird (R, IN-04), and Kim Schrier (D, WA-08).
Currently, servicemembers transitioning out of the Armed Forces are required to participate in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a program intended to help them prepare for civilian life. However, TAP only lasts one week and requires servicemembers to digest information on a broad range of topics, from accessing Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to finding employment opportunities and starting a small businesses. To supplement TAP, the IVMF at Syracuse University, together with philanthropic partners, launched Onward to Opportunity (O2O) in 2015. The O2O program was designed to assist servicemembers, veterans, and their spouses in achieving greater post-military service career opportunities by delivering free self-paced training, industry-recognized certifications, and job placement assistance. A study published by Penn State University in 2020, revealed that individuals that had participated in transition enhancement programs such as O2O experienced improved economic opportunities. Currently, the O2O program is open to eligible participants at 19 military instillations, including Fort Drum. Rep. Katko's legislation would build off Syracuse University's IVMF successes by authorizing the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a pilot program to support the expansion of O2O programs at five additional U.S. Military bases. The pilot program would require DoD to partner with private organizations, such as the Syracuse University's IVMF, with existing and effective economic development and readiness programs.
'For military families making the transition to civilian life, the process can be an extremely daunting,' said Rep. Katko. 'Over the years, I've unfortunately spoken to far too many servicemembers, veterans, and military spouses who have struggled to find economic opportunities following military service.'
Rep. Katko continued, 'In Central New York, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) launched Onward to Opportunity (O2O) in 2015 to support our veterans and their families. This successful economic development and readiness program has helped hundreds of servicemembers, veterans, and their spouses find positions that meet their interests and skillsets. To expand this successful initiative, I've authored and introduced the Onward to Opportunity Act. This bipartisan bill would establish a pilot program within the Department of Defense aimed at expanding upon the success we've seen here in Central New York. It would create economic development and readiness programming through partnerships with private veteran service organizations, such as the Syracuse University's IVMF that are committed to supporting veterans and their families and delivering enhanced economic opportunities. Expanding this program will allow these heroes and their families to make a more seamless transition into civilian life.'
'Service members and military spouses are dynamic and high performing additions to any organization. Rep. Katko's legislation not only authorizes critical resources to set this population up for success but also exponentially improves our workforce,' said Dr. J. Michael Haynie, Executive Director of Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families. 'Leaving the military takes more than updating a resume. Transitioning military families aren't just switching jobs, they are transforming their entire lives. We need to continue to build off congress' enduring commitment to our veterans and their families and bring to bear all the resources of the government so that service members and spouses do not struggle to find quality employment commensurate with their skills and experience. When we invest in military families, we help them bring their valuable soft skills and impeccable character to fields where they are desperately in demand.'