On Nov. 6, Microsoft, in partnership with Visa, hosted a discussion on “Innovative Solutions to Help Transitioning Service Members” in Washington, D.C., as part of our @Microsoft conversation series. In recognition of Veterans Day, the event brought together experts and advocates who are addressing critical transition issues for veterans.
As we recognize the service of our veterans, we realize that returning service members face significant and ongoing day-to-day challenges as they transition into civilian life. While most return home strengthened by their service, far too many struggle with their efforts to readjust to life outside of the military and face problems with chronically high unemployment, accessing benefits, managing finances, homelessness and mental health-related issues.
This year, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization published a study that found 10 percent of veterans were currently unemployed, and only 53 percent reported having found employment since leaving military service. As part of a national dialogue, and particularly as the drawdown of our troops accelerates, it is essential to address these critical transition issues for our veterans.
Throughout the event, experts emphasized the importance of providing support and mentorship for returning service members, investing in programs and services that help veterans overcome challenges and encouraging public-private partnerships as a resource for providing solutions to service members.
Programs such as the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) and the Veterans Financial Coalition are two examples of successful public-private partnerships working to ease the transition process for America’s veterans. The event was moderated by Melissa Fitzgerald, senior director, Justice for Vets, and panelists included Bernard Bergan, software development engineer in test for Microsoft’s Developer Division; Chris Cortez, Microsoft vice president, Military Affairs; Walter Tillman, director of programs, Student Veterans of America; and Nat Sillin, head of U.S. Financial Education, Visa.
At Microsoft, we are committed to giving people access to the skills they need for jobs in the growing knowledge economy. To support this commitment, we created MSSA – a full-time, 16-week, Information Technology job skills training program for active-duty U.S. military service members who have received their separation dates. Part of our YouthSpark initiative, MSSA serves as a bridge between one great career — serving in the U.S. military — and another, creating technologies that improve lives.