Jill Biden to announce plans to aid military families in next phase of her agenda

First lady Jill Biden, the military mom in the White House, is turning her FLOTUS spotlight on a cause that’s been close to her heart for years: making sure military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors get the support they need.

Biden is to announce Wednesday the next phase of one of her initiatives, Joining Forces, at a virtual meeting at the White House with American military families, advocates and stakeholders around the world.

Afterward, she will head across the Potomac River to Arlington, Virginia, to tour the Military OneSource call center, a Department of Defense program that provides 24/7 support to service members, their families and survivors.

First lady Jill Biden says military readiness depends on the well-being of military family members. (Photo: Pool photo by MANDEL NGAN)

After a month of listening sessions with military families, Biden’s priorities, according to an advance copy of her remarks obtained by USA TODAY, will focus on employment and entrepreneurship, military child education and health and well-being. 

Joining Forces will work with employers to create more flexible, transferable and remote job opportunities for military spouses; with military-connected children in their classrooms to ease burdens created by the mobile military lifestyle; and with civilian mental health service providers to ensure families, caregivers and veterans have access to services.   

Biden says military readiness and national security depends on the well-being of military families. 

“So much of a ship’s power is unseen beneath the waves: the engines, the anchor, the rudders that give it direction and purpose,” Biden plans to say during the virtual meeting. “You are the rudder that steers our military, and supporting your physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.”

Biden has drummed up attention for military families during several virtual events and in-person visits. Last month, she flew to Washington state to tour a pair of military bases, where she talked about the struggles military families face.

In February, she joined presidential medical adviser Anthony Fauci and top military officials at a virtual town hall to urge serving military, veterans and their families to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Military families face the same challenges as any other working families but with added stressors of multiple deployments, frequent moves, child care and family separation. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated many of these challenges.

First lady Jill Biden gets a tour of a Growler aircraft by Naval Aviator Lt. Cate Oakley, March 9, 2021, at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Wash. (Photo: Ken Lambert, AP)

“How can we hope to keep our military strong if we don’t give our families, survivors and caregivers what they need to thrive? That’s what Joining Forces is about,” Biden plans to say. 

Joining Forces began during President Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden served as second lady and joined first lady Michelle Obama in leading efforts to support military families.

The Bidens are such a family: Their son Beau joined the Army in 2003, served in the Delaware Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2008. He died of brain cancer in 2015. 

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden promised Joining Forces would be high on her to-do list if she became first lady. Even before President Joe Biden was sworn in, she signaled she intended to keep that promise by appointing an executive director for the effort to her staff in the Office of the First Lady.

Biden’s other causes are tied to her personal history and her previous work as second lady: She intends to focus on cancer research and, as a college English professor known as Dr. B at Northern Virginia Community College, on promoting community colleges and education in general.  

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