At Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Rep. Katko Announces Passage of Bill to Support Military Families During Transition to Civilian Life

The Katko-Authored Bill, Inspired by Syracuse University Programming, Expands Workforce Development Services for Military Personnel, Veterans, and their Spouses

Syracuse, NY— Standing at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today announced passage of the Onward to Opportunity Act. This bill was inspired by programming offered by the IVMF and will help military families make a more seamless transition to civilian life by expanding workforce development services for servicemembers, veterans, and their spouses. Rep. Katko advocated for the bill’s inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022, which recently passed in the House.

SU’s National Veterans Center

Currently, servicemembers transitioning out of the Armed Forces are required to participate in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a program intended to help them prepare for civilian life. However, TAP only lasts one week and requires servicemembers to digest information on a broad range of topics, from accessing Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to finding employment opportunities and starting a small businesses. To supplement TAP, the IVMF at Syracuse University, together with philanthropic partners, launched Onward to Opportunity (O2O) in 2015. The O2O program was designed to assist servicemembers, veterans, and their spouses in achieving greater post-military service career opportunities by delivering free self-paced training, industry-recognized certifications, and job placement assistance.  A study published by Penn State University in 2020, revealed that individuals that had participated in transition enhancement programs such as O2O experienced improved economic opportunities. Currently, the O2O program is open to eligible participants at 19 military instillations, including Fort Drum.

Specifically, Rep. Katko’s Onward to Opportunity Act builds off Syracuse University’s IVMF successes by authorizing the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a pilot program to support the expansion of O2O programs at five additional U.S. Military bases. The pilot program would require DoD to partner with private organizations, such as the Syracuse University’s IVMF, with existing and effective economic development and readiness programs.

“I’m grateful to be here at Syracuse University’s IVMF to announce the passage of my bill, the Onward to Opportunity Act,” said Rep. Katko. “Making the jump to civilian life can be an extremely daunting prospect for military families, and unfortunately, I’ve heard from far too many families who have struggled to find economic opportunities following their service. To improve this transition for military families, in 2015 the Syracuse IVMF launched the Onward to Opportunity Program. Since then, this program has helped hundreds of military families achieve greater post-military career opportunities by providing access to free, self-paced training, industry-recognized certifications and job placement assistance. My bill builds off the IVMF’s successes by supporting the expansion of Onward to Opportunity programs at five additional US military bases. With this legislation, I’m aiming to make the transition to civilian life more seamless and ensure our military heroes have the opportunities they deserve.”

“The resilience, global experiences, and unique skills military connected individuals bring into organizations enrich and reinforce an organization’s culture. Rep. Katko’s legislation provides critical resources that connect this community with purposeful employment and rapidly improve the technical ability of our workforce,” said Dr. J. Michael Haynie, Executive Director of Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “Transition from the military is starting a new chapter. Transitioning military families are looking for opportunities to continue being of service, and we need to give them the tools to reach their full potential. Rep. Katko’s legislation harnesses resources and incentivizes collaborations so that military families do not struggle to find themselves underemployed and not reaching their career goals.”