Jill Biden unveils next phase of military families program

Jill Biden unveils next phase of military families program
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First lady Jill BidenJill BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge First lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MORE on Wednesday laid out the next steps of the military families initiative she started during the Obama administration, previewing a major focus of her work in the White House over the next few years.

Biden said that through the initiative, called Joining Forces, the Biden administration will prioritize employment of military spouses, military child education and the health and well-being of those who have served in the U.S. military and their families.

“You may not wear a uniform, but you serve and you sacrifice for us all,” Biden told a virtual gathering of military family members, advocates and other stakeholders at the White House. “Military families are as critical to our national defense as a rudder is to a ship and we must always act to that truth.”

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Biden described plans for a whole-of-government effort to support military families, survivors and caregivers in various aspects of their lives. She described the initiative as one that has personal meaning for her, citing her father’s service in World War II and her late son Beau Biden's service in the Delaware Army National Guard.

“Without a doubt, being part of this military community has shaped who I am but that’s not why we’re here today. We are here because of you,” the first lady said. “You are the rudder that steers our military and supporting your physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.”

Biden, along with then-first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama to Simone Biles: 'We are proud of you and we are rooting for you' Obama setting up big bash to celebrate his 60th Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary MORE, launched the initiative to support military and veteran families in 2011 and revived the initiative when she returned to the White House with President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE in January.

Earlier this year, she named Rory Brosius, who served as deputy director of Joining Forces during the Obama administration, as the program’s new executive director.

The first lady has held virtual listening sessions with members of military families over the past few weeks, but Wednesday’s event represented the formal unveiling of the next phase of the program.

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Jill Biden said that the administration will work to ensure spouses of military members have access to employment opportunities and receive quality child care. Additionally, she said the initiative will be focused on partnering with educators to get military-connected children the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.

Finally, she said officials will support the health and well-being of service members and their families by bolstering access to mental health resources and ensuring they can put food on the table.

Jill Biden said she has already received commitments from the Pentagon and the Labor and Education departments to support Joining Forces and that she expects “every agency to step up and be part of it.”

Following her remarks, she is slated to tour a Military OneSource call center in Arlington, Va., that provides 24/7 support for military members, families and survivors and is funded by the Defense Department.

The first lady has in her first two months in office demonstrated plans to take a leading public role in the White House, drawing a contrast with her predecessor, Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOnly Trump can fix vaccine hesitancy among his supporters Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book Jill Biden appears on Vogue cover MORE, who took less of a public role alongside former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE.

In recent weeks, Jill Biden was a key advocate for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill as it made its way through Congress, visiting schools across the country as they grappled with how to physically reopen in order to highlight the funding in the bill supporting schools.

While Joining Forces is a major focus of the new first lady’s portfolio, she is also using her time to raise awareness about cancer and focus on education opportunities, both of which were priorities for her as second lady in the Obama administration. She continues to teach at Northern Virginia Community College, work that her aides are keeping separate from her public White House work.