Shaheen Joins Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Service Member Transition to Civilian Life
**IMPROVE Act would provide additional resources for active military returning to civilian life**
(Washington, DC) – Last week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) helped reintroduce the bipartisan Improving Preparation and Resources for Occupational, Vocational, and Educational (IMPROVE) Transition for Service members Act (S. 1555), which is led by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The IMPROVE Act would make reforms to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a multiagency program responsible for providing pre-separation counseling, training and assistance to service members returning to civilian live and their families. S. 1555 is also co-sponsored by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO).
“We must provide our servicemen and women the necessary resources to build safe, healthy and full lives when they come home,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan bill makes important reforms to the Transition Assistance Program so our service members can more easily access the assistance they need and deserve to transition to the civilian workforce. In addition to enhancing career readiness and professional development, these reforms also improve federal and local coordination, which is an important step in reducing the tragically high rate of veteran suicide by ensuring that veterans have access to VA as well as state and local services. Congress should act immediately on this bipartisan bill that will benefit our veteran community."
Drawing directly from interviews with service members, veterans, military leadership, transition counselors, employers and experts, S. 1555 includes several reforms, including:
- Instating earlier commencement and completion deadlines for participation in TAP to ensure service members have adequate time to maximize available services;
- Maximizing in-person rather than online participation in TAP;
- Directing the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into agreements with state veterans services agencies to develop a database of and connect service members to supportive services and organizations in the communities to which they are relocating;
- Making currently-optional 2-day specialized courses in entrepreneurship, career technical training and higher education, with the addition of advanced employment assistance, mandatory curriculum in order to boost participation in and access to those courses;
- Requiring a ratio of at least one full-time or full-time equivalent TAP employee per 250 transitioning members and their spouses at an installation to ensure enough full-time personnel are available to meet service members’ needs during transition;
- Requiring the creation of an electronic database to track individual progress in TAP and an online portal for service members to access information and resources related to their personal transition;
- Establishing post-TAP and post-transition surveys in order to assess satisfaction with and effectiveness of TAP;
- Incorporating support for TAP and other transition-related programs into DOD command climate assessments and requiring new commanders receive information about transition and career-related programs unique to their installations;
- Ensuring service members receive regular training at various touchpoints in their careers on career readiness, professional development and transition-related programs available to them during their service as part of their Military Life Cycle; and
- Directing the Government Accountability Office to study access to TAP and other transition assistance programs at small and remote bases to assess any disparity in resources and access compared to larger bases.
The legislation further acknowledges the competing pressures on the Armed Forces in carrying out their essential function to defend the nation, while affirming the importance of an effective transition program to improve the lives and welfare of service members and thereby the health and mission of the U.S. military overall.