Veterans Affairs Update with Congressman Cunningham

As I walked up the path to the USS Yorktown, taking in the beautiful Lowcountry views, I couldn’t help but feel the impact of our region’s military presence. We are home to not only Joint Base Charleston, but to more than 40 separate military commands with more than 13,000 uniformed service members representing all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. And let’s not forget to mention the $10.8 billion annual impact the military has on our metro – it is most definitely a vital economic pillar.

But of even greater importance are the people – those 13,000 uniformed service members, more than 4,000 civilian federal employees and, of course, the 70,000 veterans that call our region home. Thank you to them and their families for their service.

The Business in your Backyard on August 28 was focused on the ways our community is working to support our veterans and featured Congressman Joe Cunningham, who serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Congressman Cunningham is working tirelessly to ensure Lowcountry veterans and their families receive the best and most reliable care, services and benefits. He has been busy during his eight months in office advocating on behalf of veterans and bringing awareness to the values and skills they can bring to the private sector.

“There is nothing more important than keeping the promises we made to our veterans, service members and their families,” said Congressman Cunningham. “The Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s highest priority is to protect and continue serving them, those who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free.”

He has introduced or been a part of numerous bills that improve accessibility and care for veterans. For instance, he helped introduce a bill to improve the Transition Assistance Program for service members returning to civilian life, which would create a pilot program for off-base transition training for veterans and spouses by giving them more time to access resources. Congressman Cunningham also joined the Women Veterans Task Force, which is working to promote inclusivity and equitable access to resources, benefits and healthcare for women veterans – the fastest growing population in the military.

Following the Congressman’s update was a panel discussion featuring local organizations who actively support our veterans and who have a deep understanding of how our business community can best support their efforts. The panel, moderated by Bob Carruthers of SAIC, featured:

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the panel discussion:

  • Each month, the VA Medical Center sees 500 to 700 new veterans seeking care, making it one of the top 10 VA growth facilities.
  • The VA Medial Center is in the top 10% of not just VA’s but of all healthcare in clinical outcomes.
  • Palmetto Warrior Connection is a community integration program to help veterans who are struggling by providing outreach services and resources. They work to connect veterans with opportunities for education, employment, housing and community activities.
  • Palmetto Warrior Connection, with support from Boeing South Carolina, offers a 2-week manufacturing training program – helping them get the training they need to get a job in one of our region’s high-demand industries. To date, 220 veterans have graduated and are successfully working in our community.
  • Boeing South Carolina offers internal support services for their veteran employees, which make up about 22% of their staff. Additionally, they support companies like Vertical Roots and Coastal Expeditions because of their support of veterans.
  • Boeing also has initiatives for veteran employment opportunities that support their goal of workforce transition and development, like the USO Pathfinder, military skills translator and an employee-driven veteran resource group.

The Chamber actively advocates on behalf of active duty military and veterans. We work with local, state and federal elected officials to advance policies and investments that promote the retention and expansion of military operations in our region. Learn more about our efforts.

It is clear that our community rallies around our veterans, service members and their families. In fact, the Charleston region is one of only 27 places nationwide to earn distinction as a Great American Defense Community.

But we can do more. Get engaged – come alongside these organizations who are dedicated to serving our veterans and military and learn how your company can provide them support.

Our Business in your Backyard series delivers you information on important topics and projects in our communities. Don’t miss our next program on September 12 discussing the value of public-private partnership where we will explore the innovative Louis Waring, Jr. Senior Center.

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