Katko’s bill would improve civilian transition for service members and veterans

U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) on July 28 sponsored a bipartisan bill that would direct the Secretary of Defense to carry out a pilot program to supplement the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Transition Assistance Program.

Rep. Katko introduced the Onward to Opportunity Act, H.R. 4769, with lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), which would expand workforce development services for U.S. military service members, veterans and their spouses to help them make a more seamless transition to civilian life. 

“For military families making the transition to civilian life, the process can be extremely daunting,” said Rep. Katko. “Over the years, I’ve unfortunately spoken to far too many service members, veterans and military spouses who have struggled to find economic opportunities following military service.”

Currently, service members transitioning out of the U.S. Armed Forces must participate in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help them prepare for civilian life. However, TAP only lasts one week and requires service members to digest information on a broad range of topics, from accessing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, to finding employment opportunities, and starting small businesses, according to information provided by Rep. Katko’s office. 

H.R. 4769 is inspired by programming offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University to supplement TAP. Together with philanthropic partners, IVMF launched Onward to Opportunity (O2O) in 2015 to assist service members, veterans and their spouses with more post-military service career opportunities via free self-paced training, industry-recognized certifications, and job placement assistance, according to the information.  

If enacted, H.R. 4769 would build off IVMF successes by authorizing the 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 with existing and effective economic development and readiness programs, the information says.

“This successful economic development and readiness program has helped hundreds of service members, veterans and their spouses find positions that meet their interests and skill sets,” Rep. Katko said about the O2O program. “Expanding this program will allow these heroes and their families to make a more seamless transition into civilian life.”

The measure has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.