(Photo by Lucas Carter)

USAA CEO: The needs of veterans, their families are as great as ever

Stuart Parker was able to live out a dream by becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot. He flew missions in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.

But when he had to take a medical discharge, he decided to pursue a master's in business administration. That he was able to do so without incurring debt is attributed in part, he said, to The American Legion.

“I went back to school, and thanks to a program supported by The American Legion, vocational rehab, that paid for my MBAA,” said Parker, USAA’s chief executive officer, to The American Legion’s 100th National Convention in Minneapolis on Aug. 29. “Today, I am happy to stand here as an example of how much The American Legion does for veterans.”

Parker, a member of Alamo Post 2 in San Antonio, Texas, said USAA focuses on military causes “in cities where we live and work.” USAA, The American Legion’s preferred financial provider, will contribute approximately $40 million this year to those in need, he said.

Switching to the country’s newest generation of veterans, Parker said 17 years of war have taken a toll on post-9/11 veterans. “They need help,” he said. “When they leave the military, they enter a new world. They need jobs that match their skills and companies with the right culture.

“Forty-four percent of veterans leave their initial post-military job within one year. And that is why gainful careers for vets and their transition is important to us. We teamed with Hiring Our Heroes and the Disney Veterans Institute to prepare servicemembers for jobs.”

Parker said USAA’s VetsLeaD program has helped more than 98 percent stay in their first post-military job beyond a year. Another USAA program enables employees to move quickly into IT positions.

“But we have so much more to do,” he said. “And that’s where (The American Legion comes) in. One hundred years into The American Legion’s story, the needs of veterans and their families are as great as ever.

“You have never left behind fellow servicemembers or this country. We are honored to serve with you.”