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Honoring Our Veterans and Military Families Through Corporate Commitments

By Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, Managing Director, CECP

On Veterans Day, we honor our country’s military veterans who served to protect our freedom and rights. Many of us at CECP have family members and friends who have served or are serving in the military, and in our  special salute, we want to highlight the commitment by companies to support military families and veterans.

Military leaders face tough choices in their missions and tours of duty, and the transition to civilian life brings a new set of challenges to them and their families. The welfare of our veterans and their families is the responsibility of our society, and the gratitude for their service should not solely be sustained by the government. CECP is proud to share that many companies have made bold corporate commitments to engage their workforce, deploy their talent and skills, and invest their financial resources to support military and veteran families. In a three-year comparison of 2016 to 2018, CECP’s recent Giving in Numbers data demonstrate that the percentage of companies with a focus on military and veteran issues remained strong and level at 8%.

Employment barriers have been reduced by several companies. One organization leading the charge is the Veterans Jobs Mission with more than 200 leading companies in their coalition. Founded in 2011, they now have  a goal to hire 1 million veterans. From recruitment and hiring to acclimation and talent development, companies are seeking innovative approaches to welcoming veterans to their workforce. Both USAA and JP Morgan Chase & Co. have been active participants in this coalition and these two companies have each additionally advanced their company’s commitments in unique ways to reflect their business.

USAA’s signature cause for its corporate responsibility strategy is military family resiliency with three national focus areas: support for military caregivers and families of the fallen, wounded and children; financial readiness for service members and families; and fulfilling careers for veterans and military spouses. USAA allocates 60% of its philanthropic investment to military families, and an annual investment of 1% of pretax income, which in 2019 will be approximately $51M. USAA has a breadth of partnerships to support military and veteran families, including the families of those service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. One example of USAA’s leadership is its support for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s collaboration with the Veterans Administration to integrate military caregivers into the clinical care for their wounded family members.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. drives firm-wide initiatives to empower the veteran and service member community through four pillars: employment; entrepreneurship; education & workforce development; and community engagement. By ensuring access to resources and education, veterans can achieve long-term financial security through employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. The company offers its veteran peer mentorship Pathfinder program to veteran employees, pairing recently transitioned veterans with veterans who have been with the company for more than a year. By helping employees to adapt to their new workplace, veterans navigate the company, learn the corporate language, and apply their military skills to their new roles. JPMorgan Chase has also developed veteran programs to expand access to capital, offer mortgage-free homes, develop workforce readiness, and provide apprenticeships.

Over the past two years, my family laid to rest two amazing veteran family members, both distinguished for their service. My dad Jack Niedfeldt died in May 2019 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease, service-connected from his exposure to Agent Orange during his Army service, one of the ghosts of Vietnam for many veterans. My father-in-law Jim Thomas was buried at Arlington Cemetery in August 2018 with full military honors for his 27-year Army service, and who faced a series of service-connected medical issues. These two honorably discharged veterans received support from many public-facing, non-government programs that supported them in their later years of civilian life. Jack and Jim, and their caregivers of my mom Kathy and my mother-in-law Vicki, benefited from the commitment of corporations investing in innovative research, specialized treatments, hospital and rehabilitation institutions, community-based programs to engage their caregivers, and disease-specific education initiatives which helped them to live more fully with their chronic illnesses.

CECP wishes all military and veteran family members a reflective and peaceful Veterans Day. CECP is honored to serve the world’s largest companies in their collective efforts to engage and uplift veteran and military organizations and the recipients of their services. As Maya Angelou said, “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”