Supporting Military-Connected Employees
During National Veterans & Military Families Month, we pay tribute to the incredible men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces, as well as their military-connected families who provide unwavering support.
According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2022 there were 16.2 million military veterans in the U.S., representing 6.2% of the total civilian population age 18 and over. We know this population has faced unique risks and challenges including being exposed to highly stressful situations and periods of time away from home and loved ones. Most often, these challenges continue to affect Veterans once they’ve returned to civilian life, as well as their military-connected family members.
At Seven Counties Services, we’re dedicated to understanding the unique challenges Veterans, active-duty military, and military-connected individuals face. Below, we’ll share a few examples of how our organization continuously works to provide support for military-connected employees and their families.
Understanding the Vast Military-Connected Community
With a vast Veteran population, and active-duty military population of 1.3 million, comes a very vast military-connected community. Military-connected individuals are present throughout the schools and workplaces in our communities and most often bring along unique experiences. These experiences can range from understanding the value of service to others and learning to adapt to new situations, to separation and reunification, moves and relocations, and reintegration.
Through all of these unique challenges, military-connected individuals also gain many desired qualities that serve them as members of our communities. These can include strong work ethic, loyalty, structure and organization, motivated productivity, accountability, leadership, and cross-cultural experiences.
Sarah Flowers, the Military Family Resiliency Specialist at Seven Counties Services, stated that Kentucky has a huge military population, especially military-connected youth. In fact, the 2021 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) Survey, stated 42.1% of 10th graders in the Seven Counties Services region reported having family members currently serving, or previously served in the military.
To support these military-connected youth who face distinctive challenges, Sarah, along with Seven Counties Services, started Kentucky’s Purple Star Award program. Supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, Military Child Education Coalition, and the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, the program encourages schools across the state to adopt best practices that can make a real difference in the lives of these students.
Currently, 41 states implement the program in their schools and school districts. To learn more and get involved, visit the Purple Star Award website.
How We Support Military-Connected Employees
Because of the vast military-connected community, we know that when we actively work to support military-connected employees, everyone benefits. This includes the whole family – from children, spouses, and relatives – to community members and the organization itself. That’s why at Seven Counties Services, our vision to boldly provide quality care and health services to improve the lives of individuals and families, aligns with our initiative to support military-connected employees. We provide this support in a variety of ways:
Employee Resource Groups
In January 2024, Seven Counties Services launched a new addition to our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for Service Members, Veterans, and Families (SMVF) called Operation Military Connect! This group is one of seven ERGs, including:
- REDI (Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Taskforce)
- Pride (LGBTQ2IA+ and allies)
- Emerging Professionals, for young and/or new career professionals.
- Working Caregivers, for caregivers of children, aging parents, persons with disabilities, etc.
- Recovery, for the promotion of a recovery-ready/inclusive workplace.
- Interfaith Alliance, a multi-faith, multi-religious coalition.
ERGs are a network of employee-led groups designed to enhance equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. They are intentionally designed to foster a sense of belonging and enhance equity among individuals and groups who have one or more intersecting historically marginalized identities.
Members are supported through enhanced visibility which creates greater opportunities for professional development, networking, and mentorship. These groups build and influence culture, aid in recruitment and retention efforts, and nurture diversity that aligns with our values and the communities we serve.
Jessica Cowick, LCSW, LAPSW ‑ TN, one of our therapists and a military-connected employee here at Seven Counties Services, said she’s excited to have an ERG launch for military-connected employees because of the tribe connection it will help to create.
“The concept of tribe in military culture is massive,” said Jessica. “And what can be really uncomfortable when you leave is that loss of tribe. So something like an employee resource group where you can articulate things in a similar communication style and just have that tribe connection is massive. Even more, to have Seven Counties Services intentionally support and facilitate that is important.”
As a therapist, Jessica also takes a special interest in helping the military-connected community. She said along with the opportunity to form a tribe connection with other military-connected employees, she also appreciates that her supervisors take a personal interest in supporting her efforts to help the military-connected community.
“I told my supervisors that I would really like to see us provide more support for our military-connected clients, including more culturally informed care,” said Jessica. “And they’ve been so supportive by discussing ideas with me during supervisor sessions and connecting me with people. I now have monthly consultations with other therapists who have military-connected clients. The support I’ve received has honestly just touched me because this is something that’s so important to me personally, not only to support this population of workers but also our clients, has been so meaningful.”
Along with our evolving and growing ERGs, Seven Counties Services also offers specific benefits for active service members, as well as military-connected employees.
Seven Counties Services supports military-connected employees by supplementing up to two weeks’ pay for qualified military service. Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) includes the following two special military protections:
Military caregiver leave allows an eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a covered active service member with a serious injury or illness to take up to a total of 26 work weeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to provide care for the service member.
Qualifying exigency leave allows employees to take up to a total of 12 work weeks of FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies, such as making different daycare arrangements for the active military member’s children or attending official military ceremonies as your active family member prepares to deploy.
These military-specific supports, along with our generous health benefits packages, ERGs, and a supportive leadership team, are just some of the ways our organization works to provide for the well-being of our military-connected employees. We know providing this support is not just a commitment, it’s a responsibility. We thank our military-connected employees for their service and sacrifices, and we honor their well-being by consistently fostering a workplace culture of empathy, flexibility, and understanding.
Visit our Careers Page to learn more about our benefits and view current open positions. By joining our team, you’ll see that it’s more than a career, it’s a purpose!
Reviewed by Sarah Flowers, Military Family Resiliency Specialist, and Jessica Cowick, LCSW, LAPSW ‑ TN, at Seven Counties Services.