Hagel initiatives help military-oriented associations, support groups

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has set policy emphasizing the importance of relationships with veteran and military service organizations – VSOs and MSOs – as well as military support nonprofits, through initiatives to give the groups access to service members and their families.

The defense secretary signed two policy memorandums in December 2014 directing Defense Department leaders to implement standardized procedures to allow veteran, military and military-support nonprofit organizations better access to provide support to troops and military families.

Critical importance

"National VSOs and MSOs," Hagel said in one memo, "are a critical component of our overall framework of care for our service members throughout all phases of their military service, but especially their transition to civilian life and veteran status."

Nonprofit non-federal entities, he said, can be of critical importance to service members throughout their careers, and within the bounds of law and regulation, it’s in the department’s interest to maintain strong and positive relationships with them.

"These memos serve to re-emphasize those privileges granted under the law or flexibilities authorized under current DoD policy," Hagel said.

These initiatives direct immediate implementation of additional measures to facilitate consistent delivery across DoD, he said.

The directives, Hagel said, also provide clarity to installation commanders on adjudicating requests for space or services.

Points emphasized

In a letter sent to retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, president of the Association of the United States Army, and other nonprofit organizations, the defense secretary layed out six aspects of the initiatives which are designed to remove "unnecessary barriers and inconsistencies" in dealing with these organizations.

Installation commanders will provide available space and associated services on military installations allowing national VSOs and MSOs to provide VA-accredited representation services to transitioning service members.

All requests and decisions on installation access, use of space or logistical support will be made in writing.

Installation commanders are directed to be welcoming and supportive of nonprofit organizations that enhance morale and readiness of the force, and are consistent with mission requirements and security constraints.

Training and education will be provided in regular pre-command, judge advocate and public affairs officer training courses to educate personnel on the authorities and flexibilities associated with procedures and support to both accredited VSOs and MSOs, and military support nonprofit organizations.

DoD will use consistent and standard procedures to process requests for installation access with new tools and templates provided to aid in consistent and fair assessment and adjudication of requests for access and space.

Commanders are authorized to use official command communication channels, including Transition Assistance Program materials, to inform service troops of the availability of services and support on the installation provided by VSOs, MSOs and military-supporting nonprofits.

Maintain relationships

Hagel expressed pride in what he termed a major accomplishment, and explained the importance of the directives.

"These directives underscore my belief that events and support provided by VSOs, MSOs and military-support nonprofits can be critically important to the welfare of our service members and families," he said.

The department must maintain positive relationships with those organizations, Hagel said, to facilitate their delivery of services to military personnel who need them.