Recently, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and co-chair of the Senate Military Families Caucus, and the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) announced an effort to reach out to transitioning servicemembers to thank them for their service and help inform them of the resources available to them as they leave military service and transition to civilian life.
VDVS has sent over 1,000 letters and a Virginia Veterans Resource Guide to Transitioning Service Members (TSMs) and more will be sent throughout the year. The idea for the letters originated with a veteran on Kaine’s staff, which led Kaine’s office to suggest the letters to VDVS. The offices have worked in tandem to make the project a reality. Kaine and his office have been working with the Department of Defense (DOD) to locate records of servicemembers who have listed Virginia as their home in order to reach veterans who may be eligible for services and programs that will help them make a smooth transition into civilian life.
“We want to make sure that servicemembers don’t fall through the cracks when they transition out of the military and decide to make Virginia their permanent home in civilian life. Many new veterans never step foot in a VA facility, nor do they know the state-specific benefits that are available to them,” said Kaine. “This initiative is meant to thank them for their service to their country and express our gratitude for bringing their skills and experience to back to Virginia by giving them as much information possible about the benefits they’ve earned. Ensuring their successful transition is a win-win for both the veterans and for Virginia as they make up a highly dedicated, skilled, and sought after workforce.”
“All of us at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services are pleased to be reaching out to Transitioning Service Members in this new, innovative way,” said VDVS Commissioner John L. Newby, II. “It is a testament to our continued commitment to serving our veterans and their families here in Virginia and assisting their successful transition from military to civilian life.”
Through his work in the Senate, Kaine has worked to reduce veterans unemployment and help ease the transition from active duty to a civilian career. This month, Kaine has also introduced a pair of bipartisan bills aimed to help servicemembers transition into civilian life by improving the G.I Bill.
Kaine joined Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to introduce the Veterans Education Experience Improvement Act of 2017, a bill that aims to improve veterans’ experience when using G.I. Bill education benefits. The bill would provide resources and training for the officials at educational institutions who serve student veterans, helping them achieve positive education outcomes. Kaine also joined Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 that seeks to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The bill makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled, and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, as well as computer programming and career technical training.
Kaine’s first bill he introduced in the Senate, the Troop Talent Act, provides active duty servicemembers with the tools they need to receive credentials for the skills they acquire through military training. Key provisions of theTroop Talent Act passed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014.
-Submitted by Sarah Peck