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Witness Testimony of BG Jason T. Evans, Adjutant General, U.S. Army

 

 STATEMENT BY

BRIGADIER GENERAL JASON T. EVANS

UNITED STATES ARMY ADJUTANT GENERAL

BEFORE THE

HOUSE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

SECOND SESSION, 112TH CONGRESS

ON Examining the Re-Design of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

 

 

 NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL RELEASED BY THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS

STATEMENT BY

BRIGADIER GENERAL JASON T. EVANS

UNITED STATES ARMY ADJUTANT GENERAL

 

Chairman Stutzman, Representative Braley, members of the committee, I would like to express my appreciation for this opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Army’s Transition Assistance Program or TAP.  This program was established by the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1991.  The program prescribed that the services would be required to provide Pre-separation Counseling and Employment Assistance Training to all retiring and separating Soldiers and their Family members.

 

Redesigning Transitional Assistance Program for the Army

The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) is the Army’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) integrated and coordinated with The Department of Labor (DOL) and Veterans Affairs (VA).   The overall goal of the TAP is to provide separating and/or retiring service members and their families the information, skill set, and resources needed for a successful transition to the civilian sector.  The TAP also provides civilian career development, personal and financial wellness plans, and life transition preparation to all separating and/or retiring Airmen.  ACAP recently celebrated its twentieth year of providing transition services.  Looking back at two decades of helping Soldiers to transition from the Army back into civilian life shows us how far we’ve come.

In response to Public Law and in the face of increased reductions in the size of the military, ACAP began as a one-year pilot program in 1990 to prepare Soldiers, Department of the Army (DA) Civilians, and their families for separation from the Army.  ACAP started with six pilot sites, and quickly grew to eight, fielding 55 sites by the end of the pilot.

 As with all of American society, the events of September 11, 2001 had a significant impact on ACAP and the provision of transition services.  Most significantly, Reserve Component Soldiers – the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve – were beginning to play a much greater role in the Global War on Terror.  As Guardsmen and Reservists grew to provide as much as 28% of the forces in the field, they would also need greater access to transition services.  Just as they had mobilized for war, they would also need to demobilize and transition back to their civilian lives.  Following 9/11, the Army’s strategic and policy priorities were shifting and changing in response to world events.  Flexibility continued to be a vital component of ACAP as it worked to ensure that Soldiers’ transition needs were anticipated and met.

The next major step along the road for ACAP was the 2010 United States Military Academy (USMA) study.  The study resulted in a recommendation to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to place greater emphasis on providing a lifecycle of decision-based services to Soldiers through a program that unit commanders would be responsible for overseeing.

As ACAP moves forward following the USMA Study, it has become a much more robust and rich program.  ACAP began offering its services through a secure web portal so that Soldiers, DA Civilians, and their families could take advantage of online transition services safely from any location, worldwide.  ACAP is now a commanders’ program as unit commanders will have oversight of and track their Soldiers’ progress through transition services.  Commanders begin transition preparation by discussing military and long term goals during the Soldier’s first unit of assignment.  Commanders will identify a focal point/advisor for synchronizing the unit’s transition program with the ACAP program.  Additionally, ACAP is providing services that will be driven by a Soldier’s life choices.  So whether a Soldier chooses to seek private employment, pursue higher education or start his or her own business, ACAP offers tailored transition counseling and training for each path.

 

Core Curriculum and Career Readiness Mandatory Services

 In order to implement the re-design of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to meet the requirements of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW), and Transition Goals, Planning, and Success (GPS) as directed by the Presidential Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force (VEI TF), the Core Curriculum and Career Readiness Standards have been created, redesigned and improved to represent a life-cycle model to better assist our transitioning Soldiers:

            ―No later than 12 months prior to planned separation, the Soldier will begin his or her pre-separation counseling with an ACAP advisor.  During this time, Soldiers are informed about transition services and benefits available to them.  Each attendee will then begin the development of the GPS for employment and at the end of the first day; attendees will have built their GPS for their financial futures.  They are also guided in developing an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) from a highly qualified counselor.  We are also pleased that our Army Spouses can participate in the TAP GPS classes. Spouses receive the same transition and employment services as the military member.  As we continue to move forward with this program, we will market the opportunity for spouses to attend via the Military Spouse Employment Program.

            ―The Department of Labor Employment Workshop is a three-day workshop facilitated by trained subject matter experts.  It is to be completed no later than ten months prior to the Soldier’s separation date.  The workshop provides attendees with the knowledge and skills to execute a successful job search.  Guidance includes:  resume and cover letter preparation, networking, identification of job opportunities, interviewing, and even salary/benefit negotiations.  In order to enhance the participants’ experience from this class, ACAP counselors provide various employment assistance seminars on private and Federal employment opportunities.

            ―The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Education Benefits Briefing is a one-hour class regarding VA education benefits such as the Post 9/11 and Montgomery G.I. Bills.  These briefings must be completed no later than six months prior to transition.  The briefings are administered by the VA staff.  The VA Benefits Briefing is a three-hour workshop conducted by VA counselors for all separating and retiring Soldiers.  These briefings cover all VA services and benefits available to Veterans, including information regarding the Disability Transition Assistance Program.

            ― A six-hour long Financial Planning Seminar is conducted by Army Community Service Financial Counselors, and should be completed no later than ten months prior to transition.  Topics and activities include financial planning, credit ratings, home ownership, health care and insurance planning, as well as estate and tax planning.  The Financial Planning Seminars prepare participants’ for financial independence following their military separation and provide the fundamental tools to build an integrated budget.

            ―The Military Occupation Code (MOC) Crosswalk(a two-hour module) begins the process of identifying the skills, experience, credentials, and education obtained while in the military, and transitions them to civilian opportunities.   Service members will learn about the different types of job-seekers and how to conduct a MOC crosswalk.  Participants’ will conduct a partnering activity and will crosswalk their individual MOC to civilian career opportunities identifying the gaps needed to be explored in order to be more employable and marketable in the civilian sector. This newly designed program was created to meet the requirements of the VEI TF and is currently being tested during the pilots.

            ―‘Value of a Mentor/Special Issues’, a new program currently being tested at the pilot locations, is a 30-minute overview that discusses the mentor support structures and interpersonal relationships that occur during and after transition.  This overview also connects the Service members with installation and community resources.  This briefing must be completed no later than ten months prior to transition.

            ―Finally, the Career Readiness Standard is the choice based CAPSTONE Event. A new program developed, and currently being tested at the pilots, to align with the VEI TF requirements.   This assessment is completed by the Soldier no later than 90 days prior to transition.  At the beginning of CAPSTONE, Soldiers complete a Transition-focused assessment to identify their confidence and preparedness levels for transition.  Counselors review the assessment with Soldiers to identify any shortcomings regarding training and/or confidence level, thus allowing the Soldier to seek assistance.  The CAPSTONE requirements serve to mitigate risks for possible negative outcomes after separation--such as unemployment, financial issues, social services issues and homelessness.  Three CAPSTONE options will be available to Soldiers and Commanders: 1) a face-to-face/virtual counseling with an ACAP counselor; 2) a face-to-face with the commander; or 3) participation in a four-hour large event with guest speakers.

The Military Life Cycle for Transition will be implemented no later than 2014.  The initial concept for Military Life Cycle centers on paralleling career readiness with career progression by synchronizing Army Career Tracker (ACT) with Transition training and interfacing ACT to Transition counselors.  Following the competition of the Day five of the training, the attendees select (based on career goals) one of the following as applicable:  Technical Employment track (in development), Entrepreneurial track (for those going into business on their own), or the two-day Education track (should their immediate plans include attending school).

Implementing the Army Transition Plan

The Army is implementing the Transition plan to incorporate the requirements set by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW), the Presidential Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force (VEI TF) recommendations, and the DA execute order (EXORD) to provide robust and timely transition.

The Army will execute three Choice–based transition efforts to align the new TAP with the EXORD, VOW, and VEITF requirements: 1) reinforcing existing virtual capabilities; 2) reinforcing existing Army Career and Alumni Program Centers; and 3) establishing Forward Transition Support Teams and Mobile Transition Support Teams.

By reinforcing and updating virtual ACAP capabilities, this remote outreach provides Soldiers a 24/7 opportunity to begin their separation with a highly qualified ACAP counselor. 

Testing the pilots

The Army developed a Transition pilot in preparation for the changes necessitated by transition EXORD, VOW, and VEI TF, etc.  The pilot program is being tested at one Active Component (AC) location (Fort Sill, OK), five Reserve Component (RC) locations: Demobilization sites at Utica, NY; North Fort Hood, TX; and Camp Shelby, MS and three additional locations (called HOOAH locations) focusing on Virtual Career Fairs.  The Army Transition pilot at Fort Sill reached completion on August 30, 2012 and two RC pilots are complete (107th MP CO, ARNG and 436TH TC BN, USAR).  Three other RC locations will be completed in September 2012, and HOOAH locations will host seven Virtual Career Fairs from September 2012 through January 2013.

 

There are four main Transition pilot objectives: 1) Evaluate the ability to manage & sustain increased transition assistance throughput; 2) Evaluate curriculum quality and presentation; 3) Evaluate Soldier feedback & tracking system; 4) Evaluate a connection mechanism to link Soldiers and potential employers.

 

There are also several notable success stories as a result of the Transition pilot.  For example, the workloads and throughputs have remained manageable (which bodes well for Army-wide implementation); timing and delivery of material has improved with every week of the pilot; and pilot attendance tracking at local levels has also become more efficient.

As the Transition pilot is ongoing, the objectives are still being measured and assessed.  Among many other considerations, the Army is examining exemptions for Active Component and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers, how to eliminate redundancies and improve relevance in curricula among stakeholders, proper sequencing/presentation of information, time requirements, attendance tracking, and facilitator preparedness.

 

 One of the most valuable lessons learned from the pilots is that segregating Soldiers into cohorts by age/rank increases interaction among Soldiers and counselors/facilitators.  The discussion of these issues is not exhaustive, and the Army is continuously re-evaluating the pilots until completion. Currently, ACAP surveys are being used for Soldier metrics collection and to capture and review Soldier comments. The Office of the Secretary of Defense will release its survey results upon conclusion of the pilot period.

Conclusion

We have a sacred commitment to ensure that the Soldiers that have sacrificed so much in service to America’s defense are taken care of as they begin the next chapter of their lives.  To conclude, I wish to thank all of you for your continued support.  The Army is committed to being the leader of the Department of Defense transition efforts by finding the right solution for our Soldiers and our Veterans.  Chairman Stutzman, and members of the sub-committee, I thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you, and I look forward to your questions.