The new congressional caucus has both Democrats and Republicans on board.
In a show of bipartisanship, Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-CA) and Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) created a new congressional caucus that will focus specifically on meeting the needs of service members returning to civilian life.
The caucus, officially named the Congressional Military Transition Assistance Pathway (MTAP), includes 18 members from both sides of the aisle and aims to improve existing resources and programs for returning members of the military. The group will also look for ways to improve participation in available programs and address gaps in care for female and minority veterans.
Rep. Cisneros, a Democrat from southern California also serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was inspired to form the new caucus by his own experience returning home after serving as a Supply Corps Officer in the U.S Navy for 11 years. Rep. Bergman is also a veteran and served in the Marine Corps.
“As veterans, we know firsthand the challenges that service members and their families face when they leave military service and begin to reintegrate into civilian life. This caucus will help members engage with Veteran Service Organizations and other key stakeholders as we focus necessary attention on this crucial period in the lives of service members, veterans, and their families,” Cisneros said in a statement.
Transitioning back to civilian life can come with a host of challenges, like finding suitable jobs and becoming accustomed to a different life structure. According to a Pew Research Center study, about three-quarters of veterans who served in the post-9/11 era reported that readjusting to civilian life was either very or somewhat difficult. That same study found that while 73% of veterans said they had used benefits from Veterans Affairs, only 46% said the VA was doing a good job.
According to Cisneros’ office, new veterans are often tasked with navigating resources and getting in to programs geared towards easing the transition on their own, instead of getting guidance from thr agencies themselves.
Over the next year, the caucus will hold meetings and coordinate with Defense Department (DOD) officials on ways to prepare service members for civilian life while they are still serving. They also aim to incorporate the needs of both Guard and Reserve forces, and clarify transition programs offered by other agencies to bring about “improved, reformed and streamlined” processes between various departments.
“The new Congressional Military Transition Assistance Pathway (MTAP) Caucus is a positive thing for our Nation’s servicemembers as they transition from the military into the civilian sector. The program’s holistic approach will enable servicemembers to focus on particular tier of education, employment, or entrepreneurship,” said William West, who serves as an American Legion Texas State Adjutant in a statement.
The caucus also aims to hear from veterans and their families about the changes they would like to see and will work towards outreach efforts at a district level, according to Cisneros’ office.
“We make a promise to provide and care for our service members when they return home, and they deserve nothing less than top quality medical care and support,” Cisneros said in a statement.