Advocates push for national veterans strategy to focus support efforts


Officials from the George W. Bush Institute are pushing for a national veterans strategy to focus numerous existing military transition programs and provide better insight on what other resources are needed.

“Our servicemembers, veterans, and their families form an immense pool of talent that can be leveraged in our businesses and in our communities,” group leaders wrote as part of a series of policy priorities released this week to coincide with the start of the new congressional session.

“Federal legislators, executive departments and the administration all have roles to play in ensuring our nation best understands this. And as our transitioning service members, veterans, and their families face their next chapter, national leaders, elected officials, and their key staff members must seize this opportunity.”

The Institute, the non-partisan policy arm of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, has been an influential voice on military and veterans issues in recent years.

In its veterans policy recommendation, retired Marine Corps Col. Matthew Amidon, director of the group’s veterans and military families efforts, praised the work of the White House’s Joining Forces initiative — which focuses on those military family and transition issues — but said that more collaboration needs to occur between the Defense Department and those kinds of groups.

“We recommend that the Defense Department authorize the return of the chairman’s Office of Reintegration, which ended in 2015,” he wrote. “This office served as the one connection point between the Pentagon, veteran service organizations, interested stakeholders, and others.”

Institute officials said that such connections could also help military officials brainstorm solutions to the military recruiting crisis.

“It’s in the best interests of all stakeholders, including Congress and nonprofit organizations, to tie post-service veteran and military family outcomes to the sustainment of our all-volunteer force,” officials wrote. “They are inextricably linked and require ongoing effort with a renewed and collaborative focus.”

The Institute’s recommendation also calls for better data collection by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration on matters like veterans’ gender, race, and ethnicity issues to ensure that support programs are evolving to help all former service members.

The full list of the group’s policy recommendations is available on the Institute’s website.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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