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Witness Testimony of Roger D. Peterman, Indiana National Guard, Transition Assistance Advisor

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate this opportunity to testify before you today in reference to Transition Assistance Advisor (TAA) and Employer Support of Guard and Reserves as it applies to Pre-mobilization, Mobilization and Post Mobilization of our Indiana Soldiers.

The TAA program is primarily designed to serve the members of the National Guard and their families.  Additionally, we gladly provide service to members in all of the Reserve components, any Veteran and their families.

As the Transition Assistance Advisor, I work to provide a statewide point of contact in assisting members with access to Veterans Affair benefits and medical services.  Services are provided at all phases of soldier deployment which includes Pre-mobilization, Mobilization and Post Mobilization operations in conjunction with other Indiana National Guard Directors.  TAA also provides assistance in obtaining entitlements through the TRICARE Military Health System and access to community resources.

The Transition Assistance Advisor works to build community partnerships through the National Guard, Reserves, DOD services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, Veteran Service Organizations and the local communities.  The TAA provides communication and coordination between these partners.  We provide education and support to all eligible service members and their families.  A very important factor in this process is raising the awareness and understanding of available state and federal VA benefits, as well as various community agencies that can assist the soldiers.

Help is provided to the individual service member ensuring they are aware of entitlement programs, access to medical care and benefits of TRICARE.  There are many important deadlines that require action such as post dental care.  Service members and their families needing counseling are advised where and how to get the help they need.  Information is provided on insurance such as SGLI and TSGLI.  The TAA supports the VA and local communities in developing Job Fairs designed for service members, veterans and their families.  Assistance is also provided to service members locating lost DD 214’s.

Transition assistance is provided during pre-mobilization, mobilization, and demobilization.  During homecoming events information is made available to the service member and their families in the form of brochures on VA benefits, educational opportunities, reemployment rights and other relevant resources.  At this point the reintegration process has started.  At 90 to 120 days the Seamless Transition is conducted at the unit or local community center.  Many organizations are brought together to ensure our soldiers receive the information and resource needed to return to civilian life.  Representatives at this event include Finance, Legal, VA benefits, VA Medical Center, Department of Labor, County Service Offices, TRICARE, Chaplain, Small Business Administration, Secretary of State, Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, Family Programs, American Legion, DAV, VFW and AMVETS. 

The TAA program is successful because we care about soldiers, veterans and their families.  Over 90% of TAA’s are veterans or spouses of military members.  Many TAA’s have worked through the disability process.  They have experienced the process and can help guide the service member through it.  We have built strong partnerships and coalitions with the VA, Directors of VA, Veterans Service Organizations, Family Programs, DOL, and Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR).  Major Van Bree, Director of Family Programs, and I work closely on a daily operational level because our work overlaps.  We serve as members of the Adjutant General’s staff.

I want to tell you about a volunteer organization in which I serve as the State Chairman. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve also known as ESGR is a Department of Defense volunteer organization. 

The mission of ESGR is to gain and maintain active support from all public and private employers for the men and women of the National Guard and Reserves.  Additionally this volunteer organization provides education, consultation, and if necessary, informal mediation between employers and employees who are Guardsman or Reservist. 

ESGR is required to inform employers and their National Guard and Reserve employees of their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Title 38, USC, Chapter 43.  Indiana has 16 trained Ombudsman volunteers who serve to mediate these issues between employers and employees serving in the military. Currently, Indiana ESGR has 105 volunteers serving around the state.

In summary, ESGR’s goal is to support America’s employers who share their employees with the Department of Defense to ensure our National Security. ESGR helps employers to understand the vital role they play in the National Defense of the United States.  We must develop and promote a culture in which American employers support and value the Military service of their employees.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  Thanks for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Transition Assistance program and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves.  I would be pleased to answer any questions from the Subcommittee.