July 30, 2018

Crapo, Stabenow Introduce Legislation to Improve Servicemember Transition to Civilian Life

Bill would make needed improvements to reintegrate veterans back into civilian life

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow today introduced S.3299, the Improving Preparation and Resources for Occupational, Vocational, and Educational (IMPROVE) Transition for Servicemembers Act.  The IMPROVE Transition for Servicemembers Act would make needed reforms to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a multiagency program responsible for providing pre-separation counseling, training and assistance to servicemembers returning to civilian life and their families. 

“The transition from military service to the civilian world can prove particularly stressful and overwhelming for veterans and their families,” said Senator Crapo.  “Ensuring that our women and men in uniform have access to the personalized resources, training and counseling they need to succeed and pursue their ambitions will help veterans more smoothly and successfully reintegrate into their communities and start their new lives on solid footing.” 

“As I’ve met with veteran leaders and service providers across Michigan, one of the top concerns I’ve heard about is the challenges our veterans face when transitioning back to civilian life,” said Senator Stabenow. “Our bill reforms the transition process for returning veterans by beginning the process earlier, doing a better job of providing information on available resources and connecting returning veterans with local service providers. These changes will ensure that our veterans get the housing, employment, and health care services they need to be successful in civilian life.”

Drawing directly from interviews with servicemembers, veterans, military leadership, transition counselors, employers and experts, S.3299 includes several reforms:

  • Instating earlier commencement and completion deadlines for participation in TAP to ensure servicemembers have adequate time to maximize available services;
  • Limiting the use of online TAP curriculum as a substitute for in-person instruction only to extreme circumstances;
  • Urging 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 servicemembers 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, non-contract TAP employee per 250 transitioning members at an installation to ensure enough full-time personnel are available to meet servicemembers’ needs during transition;
  • Requiring the establishment of an electronic database to track individual progress in TAP and an online portal for servicemembers to access information and resources related to their personal transition;
  • Establishing pre-TAP, post-TAP and post-transition surveys in order to tailor servicemembers’ TAP counseling, solicit their feedback and examine the effectiveness of TAP;
  • Requiring the education of servicemembers and military leadership on programs and resources for professional development, academic advancement and post-service career preparation available to them during service; and
  • Directing Government Accountability Office to study the implementation of and 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 improving the lives and welfare of servicemembers and thereby the health and mission of the U.S. military overall. 

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, August 1, 2018, to consider pending servicemember assistance legislation.  Language from the IMPROVE Transition for Servicemembers Act has been included in the discussion draft for the hearing, and TAP improvements remain one of the committee’s highest priorities for the remainder of the 115th Congress. 

Text of the measure can be found here and a one-pager of the legislation can be found here

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