President Barack Obama outlined almost 50 new commitments to help support military families with programs designed to address issues from suicide prevention to reducing predatory lending and homelessness.
“Our armed forces, you and your families, have done everything you’ve been asked to do,” Obama said at a White House event where he announced a plan to coordinate assistance among 16 federal agencies. “As a grateful nation we must do ours.”
The promises of help stem from recommendations by the president’s staff in response to a directive issued by Obama last May. He called it an “unprecedented commitment” to military families.
The government will concentrate on four areas to help military families, according to an administration statement. They include improving psychological health resources for military families, ensuring excellence in education for children of service members, developing career and education opportunities for military spouses and increasing the availability of child care.
“This isn’t about just understanding your concerns,” first lady Michelle Obama said at the announcement of the initiative. “It’s about getting something done.”
To promote the plan and draw more attention to the needs of military families, Michelle Obama will appear on Oprah Winfrey’s television show Jan. 27, the president said.
The Health and Human Services Department will work with the Defense Department on programs on suicide prevention and treatment of psychological problems, the statement said.
Military officials have put greater attention on preventing suicides among service members, in part because of the stresses imposed by multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, the suicide rate in the Army for the first time exceeded the rate for the civilian population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. There were 160 reported cases of suicide among active duty soldiers in 2009, compared with 140 the year before, according to Army data.
Defense, Labor and Commerce Department pledge to assemble programs to help widen career opportunities for military spouses, while the Education Department will make its grant programs a priority for military families, including financial aid applications.
To help military personnel avoid financial scams and deal with distress linked to consumer credit, the Obama administration on Jan. 6 named Holly Petraeus, wife of Army General David Petraeus, to establish a new federal office to help families with financial concerns.