Veteran Uses AW2 Resources to Succeed in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Communications Division

Leaving the military can be a nerve-racking experience for a wounded, ill and injured Soldier, but Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Billy Guyton will attest to using the resources the Army offers to successfully transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

Guyton was hired by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), the organization that operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment.

“I was looking for a job,” Guyton said. “I told my Advocate, and the next thing I knew I was being contacted by the hiring manager from DeCA.”

Guyton’s AW2 Advocate contacted the AW2 Career and Education Cell in hopes of getting him in the Expedited Referral Process, a process that connects AW2 Veterans with employers who are looking to hire wounded, ill and injured Veterans and have agreed to expedite the hiring process for qualified Veterans.

“Billy’s advocate submitted an issue requesting employment assistance,” said Mullen. “I was the ‘connector’ between Billy and DeCA, because I knew if I could get someone to speak with Billy, they would want to hire him.” 

“If a Soldier or Veteran is looking for employment, we ask that they contact their Advocate,” said Vicki Mullen, AW2 Labor Liaison Specialist. “The Advocate will notify us, and we will start the employment process.”

Guyton learned firsthand the process works but it requires the Soldier or Veteran to do their part to help.

“The resume plays a huge part in getting hired,” Mullen said. “Soldiers and Veterans should ensure their resumes contain all of the information required before submitting it for employment.” 

“If they have 5-10 years of experience and the federal resume is only a couple of paragraphs they have left out a lot of information,” she added. “Use all resources available to you i.e., ACAP, DOL, Transition Coordinators, etc.”

Guyton, who was recently promoted to a supervisory position, proves success can transfer from the military to the civilian workforce, but recommends a Soldier or Veteran take chances and use the resources available.

“I was an engineer in the military, but I’m working in logistics,” he said. “I’m glad DeCA saw that I had other skills to bring to the table.”

“Just because you are doing one thing in the military it doesn’t require you to do the same job as a civilian,” Guyton added. “Hopefully, Veterans and employers will continue to look beyond the military specialty title and focus on the military skills.”

Visit AW2’s old blog for additional stories on AW2’s career and education services and stories of Soldiers and Veterans successfully finding employment.

 

The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) is the official U.S. Army program that assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families, wherever they are located, regardless of military status. Soldiers who qualify for AW2 are assigned to the program as soon as possible after arriving at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). AW2 supports these Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. Through the local support of AW2 Advocates, AW2 strives to foster the Soldier’s independence. There are more than 19,000 Soldiers and Veterans currently in AW2.

Did You Know? Transition Coordinators

By Amanda Koons, WTC Communications Division

Did you know that Transition Coordinators (TC) assist eligible Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Soldiers with career and education goals according to their selected career path?

You may already know a lot about the interdisciplinary team that works together to help wounded, ill and injured Soldiers focus on their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Cadre members provide support and guidance to Soldiers and their Families in developing the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) and play a positive and active role throughout the Soldier’s transition plan. You can learn more about the Cadre on the Cadre Roles and Responsibilities section of the WTC website.

What you may not know is that there is one individual who serves as the Program Manager for Career and Education Readiness (CER): the Transition Coordinator (TC). The TC assists WTU Soldiers with Career and Education Readiness (CER) activities according to the Soldier’s career and education goals. CER activities may include internships, worksite placements, training, professional certificates and education programs (including bachelor’s and master’s degree programs).  Whether the Soldier goes back to duty or into their civilian communities, the TC focuses on the next step in the Soldier’s career. TCs specialize in navigating career and education options based on the Soldier’s individual circumstances.

TCs are available by walk-in or by appointment. If you are unsure who your TC is, check with your Squad Leader. While not all units currently have a full-time TC, but all units have someone acting in the TC role, with designated TC responsibilities. There are currently 37 TCs across the country, including 17 full-time TCs at WTU brigades or battalions and 20 part-time TCs at Community Based Warrior Transition Units (CBWTUs).

Interested in an internship that can bolster your résumé and help you gain valuable skills? Maybe you would like to first return to school to earn a degree in a new field? Or maybe you would prefer to take a training course or gain a certificate to explore a new career? Your Transition Coordinator can help you get started in any of these next steps for your career and education.

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veterans have similar transition resources available. The AW2 Career and Education Section provides direct resume referral to a network of employers with an expedited hiring process for severely wounded, ill and injured Veterans.  They also educate employers about reasonable accommodations. Contact your AW2 Advocate to discuss your personal situation and career goals.

“Did You Know?” Series

Using your feedback, the WTC Communications Division identified five topics where wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Families and Cadre want additional information, particularly around Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) resources, benefits and policies that impact their recovery and transition. We’ll post one blog per week on these five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during Warrior Care Month:

1)   Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)

2)   Community Support Network

3)   Internships

4)   Adaptive Reconditioning

5)   Transition Coordinators

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Want to share your Career and Education Readiness (CER) story? Post a comment here or email us at usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.strategic-communications@mail.mil.


 

Did You Know? Internships for WTU Soldiers

By Amanda Koons, WTC Communications Division

Did you know that internships develop or reinforce skill sets transitioning wounded, ill and injured Soldiers need to prepare for civilian employment? An internship program may support your rehabilitation and integration goals while providing valuable civilian experience. Talk to your Transition Coordinator (TC) to see if an internship is right for you.

There are two approved internship programs for Soldiers in Warrior Transition Units (WTUs):

  1. Department of Defense (DOD) Operation Warfighter (OWF) Non-Paid Federal Internship program
  2. Veterans Affairs (VA) Coming Home to Work (CHTW) Non-Paid Work Experience

Check out some frequently asked questions for Soldiers about participating in an internship:

How will I benefit from participating in an internship?

An unexpected injury or illness may have changed your life plans. An internship may help you see past your injuries to new possibilities within a new military or civilian career. The valuable experience you gain during your internship will enhance your resume and future job search.

How can I get the most out of my internship experience?

Establishing specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) career goals and maintaining motivation will lead to a productive internship. You must be active, aggressive and accountable in meeting goals outlined in your individual Comprehensive Transition Plan.

What results can I expect from participating in an internship?

You can expect numerous results from participating in an internship:

  • Meaningful activity that assists in wellness
  • Exploring employment interests
  • Developing civilian job skills
  • Reintegrating into the civilian work force
  • Gaining valuable federal government work experience
  • Understanding of how military skills are transferable to civilian employment
  • Building a résumé

What is required before I may participate in an internship?

You must be determined medically ready, which depends on two factors:

  1. A medical management (M2) clearance finding you medically, physically, and emotionally ready to participate in an internship while continuing medical treatment.
  2. A Command clearance concluding that you demonstrate the initiative and self-discipline required to participate in an internship.

You must also have a federal résumé and a completed and signed OWF Approval for Participation form.

May I receive compensation for my internship duties?

No. You may not receive compensation or benefits from the agency as you will continue to be paid by the Army until discharge or return to duty.

 Where can I get more information about participating in an internship?

You should work directly with your Transition Coordinator (TC). Your TC will ensure you meet the requirements and all steps necessary to obtain an internship. Download the new “Did You Know?” Internships factsheet from the Career and Employment Readiness section of the WTC website for additional frequently asked questions.

“Did You Know?” Series

Using your feedback, WTC Communications Division identified five topics where wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Families and Cadre want additional information, particularly around Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) resources, benefits and policies that impact their recovery and transition. We’ll post one blog per week on these five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during Warrior Care Month:

  1. Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)
  2. Community Support Resources
  3. Internships
  4. Adaptive Reconditioning
  5. Transition Coordinators

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Post a comment here


AW2 Veteran Explains Importance of Resources in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC STRATCOM

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

Most people consider speaking about themselves a challenge, especially if it is to a crowd of people. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Robert Murafsky tackled this task in order to provide insights about thriving in today’s workforce as an AW2 Veteran.

“I knew I wanted to be a Soldier since I was a little kid watching the Army commercials on television,” said the Metuchen, N.J. native. “I thought when I joined the military, I would serve 20-plus years, retire, and spend the rest of my life fishing and falling asleep in my reclining chair.”

“However, my reality changed once I was wounded because I had to recover and refocus,” Murafsky added. “If it wasn’t for great programs like the Army Wounded Warrior Program, I wouldn’t have the job I have today working as an Army civilian.”

On August 28, 2006, while performing a search mission during a deployment in Hit, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an enemy sniper shot Murafsky in the face damaging his right eye.

“A few minutes into the search I felt an awful pain, heard a loud ringing, and everything started to go in slow motion,” Murafsky said. “I remember putting my hand to my face, pulling it back, and seeing lots of blood.”

He was taken to the Forward Operating Base for an initial assessment, then airlifted to a nearby base for surgery. After surgery, he was medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Despite a catastrophic injury, Murafsky navigated through the rehabilitation process, transitioned out of the military in May 2007, and qualified for AW2.

AW2 supports Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. This program, through the local support of AW2 Advocates, strives to foster the Soldier’s independence.

“I told my Advocate I was searching for a job, gave her my resume, and the next thing I know I’m being told to come in for an interview,” he said. “I have no idea what happened between giving her my resume and getting that phone call, but I know she had something to do with it.”

Murafsky currently works as a security specialist for the Department of the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.

“My first day working as an Army civilian was great because it kind of made me feel like I was back in the Army,” Murafsky said. “This job makes feel like I am helping out the Army.  It may be in a small way, but I consider myself part of the Army still.”

“This job has been great, and I feel like they didn’t hire me to check a box but to actually help a wounded warrior,” he added. “They put me in touch with programs to receive equipment that would help me with my disability and allow me to work in the best conditions possible.”

One program he finds particularly helpful is the DoD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP).

CAP ensures that people with disabilities and wounded servicemembers have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government.

“We provide the equipment to allow people like Robert equal access to everything,” said Kameelah Montgomery, acquisition team leader of CAP. “There’s technology out there for these Soldiers and Veterans.”

Some examples of technology available for those who are blind or have low vision include Braille displays and translators, large print keyboards, or a compact and portable version of a closed-circuit television.

“They can receive it free of charge while in uniform,” she added.  “It’s theirs to keep forever because we want them to go out and be successful.”

To learn more about how to hire a Veteran at your organization, including an online toolkit and educational video for hiring managers, visit the Warrior Transition Command at www.WTC.army.mil/employers or for information about CAP, visit http://www.cap.mil.

Your Life, Your Career, Your Time–All Defined by the Level of Effort You’re Willing to Contribute

SGT John Moore from Tennessee lost his left leg after an IED blew up underneath him in January 2009, while on his second deployment in Iraq as a member of the 25th Infantry 1st Brigade Division. He spent most of his recovery at the Fort Belvoir WTB. After he retired in 2011, AW2 helped him find a job and transition into civilian life.

SGT John Moore from Tennessee lost his left leg after an IED blew up underneath him in January 2009, while on his second deployment in Iraq as a member of the 25th Infantry 1st Brigade Division. He spent most of his recovery at the Fort Belvoir WTB. After he retired in 2011, AW2 helped him find a job and transition into civilian life.

By Drew McComber
My name is Drew McComber and I am a medically retired SSG from Walter Reed. It has been less than six months since I became a civilian, but the transition from ACUs to suit and tie was nearly painless. Why? Because early on in my time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I recognized that my life as an infantry grunt was ending, and I needed to make a serious change. I felt a sense of accomplishment in the small fact that I came to terms with such reality, but the far more daunting task was determining how I was going to make such change after I hung my boots up.

It all starts with a question. What do I want to do when I leave this place? It seems easy enough to answer. However, for me, having to decide on a complete change of lifestyle after seven years turned out to be much more challenging than I anticipated. My occupational therapist and transition coordinator began working with me, and reviewing what options were available. They sent me to several different job fairs and work conferences to see what was out there. I really found that working for the government might be interesting. It seemed to be one of the best ways to serve my country, and get a nicer paycheck in the process. I started looking at all the places I could intern and get some insight and experience to life outside the Army. Several places came to mind, and I even had my eye on one in particular, but when I talked to their recruiter, I encountered my first major snag: I needed a security clearance.

In reality, this was a snag, but not major. I would say more time consuming than anything. Like everything in life, it is more a matter of finding the right people to help you. I will admit that it took several channels of support to make my clearance happen, but once it did, I was good to go.

For the remaining two years I was going through the retirement process, I interned at three different locations; this was kind of my plan from the beginning because it would broaden my experience base and allow me to see what all was available for someone making a transition. My intern time was a great experience that allowed me to build a robust network of people who were willing to help me in any way I needed it.

To make a three-year story short, my time spent interning and working during my transition definitely paid off. After I retired in September 2012, I already had a job offer waiting for me; it happened to be with the last place I spent nine months as an intern. By making the most out of my time at Walter Reed and not being afraid to try new things, I proved to my company and myself that I would be a value-added member to their team. Today, I am happily employed in a job that I am continuously growing and learning. Thanks to a supportive staff at Walter Reed and a desire to make the most out of all the opportunities available, I find myself on a new career path with unlimited potential and a very rewarding future.

Infantryman Turned Recruiter: Disability Hiring Coordinator Wants to Hire You

The following post was written by Robert Montez, the disability hiring coordinator for Headquarters Medical Command, Fort Sam, Houston. He is also a wounded Soldier who was hired by the Department of the Army under the Schedule A hiring authority.

Though not specifically for Veterans, the Schedule A authority for people with disabilities, 5 CFR 213.3102(u), is an excepted authority that agencies can use to appoint eligible Veterans who have a severe physical, psychological, or intellectual disability. For more information and eligibility requirements, visit: http://www.fedshirevets.gov/job/shav/index.aspx.

SFC Robert Montez receives his second Purple Heart and second Bronze Star for Valor alongside his Family.

SFC Robert Montez receives his second Purple Heart and second Bronze Star for Valor alongside his Family.

I served as an Infantryman from 1997-2011, working my way up the ranks from Private to Sergeant First Class. My deployment to Afghanistan in 2009 changed my life. I was shot in the shoulder on August 18, 2009, and then hit by two road side bombs — one on August 23, 2009 and the other one on October 21, 2009. I tried my best to stay with my men, but it just wasn’t possible.

Now, I recruit for the Department of the Army.

Who I’m Recruiting

As a Department of the Army civilian recruiter, I am looking for candidates that have a targeted disability and are able to obtain a Schedule A letter. What I do is help candidates with a Schedule A letter find jobs in the Army as civilian employees in one of our many hospitals or clinics Army wide. Jobs that we offer range from doctors, nurses, human resource professionals, and chefs — basically any job that makes a hospital run and function is what we are looking for. I know that we offer a broad range of jobs, and the reason for this is because every installation’s needs are different. What one base in Germany may need at any given time is going to be different than the needs of a base in Maryland. Still interested?

How to Apply

  1. Visit www.civlianmedicaljobs.com and click the link that says Jobs for People with Disabilities
  2. Upload your resume and your Schedule A letter
  3. Wait for an email from me for next steps
  4. Once you receive my response, go to USA jobs and start looking for jobs you qualify for
  5. Apply for that position on USA jobs LINK to: https://www.usajobs.gov/
  6. Send me an email notifying me of the jobs you applied for and why you think you are a good fit for that position (include the job number, job title, and location in your email)

With all this information, I will then call and email that specific installation and inform them about the person that just applied for one of their job postings. I will inform them that this is a Schedule A candidate, and he or she meet needs for that job. Then, it’s up to the specific installation to bring the applicant in for an interview.

Please note that there is a GS-civilian hiring freeze, but we are still actively recruiting new talent for current openings and for additional openings that are expected when the hiring freeze ends.

If you have any questions about our program, please let me know in the comments section below this blog. I really look forward to working with you!

Jon Zagami Proves Disabled Veterans Add Value in the Workplace

Jon Zagami, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a traumatic brain injury (TBI), demonstrates his leadership abilities and unique skill set in the workplace as a disabled Veteran.

By Alli Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
Jon Zagami’s story is one that serves as a model for employers. As a Veteran living with physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a traumatic brain injury (TBI), he can recall a time when he laid in a hospital bed and wondered if he would ever walk again.

Today, Zagami is a leader on his team at Caterpillar Financial, working on the company’s most difficult portfolio. He motivates his peers, demonstrates hard work, and gets results. But in looking back to a time when he was searching for a job, Zagami says he worried about how to convey to employers that he could add value to the workplace despite his injuries.

“One of the biggest questions in my mind was, how am I going to explain to people that I left the Army because of injuries?” he said. “And you know, looking at it from an employer’s perspective, I understand that it sounds scary, and a lot of questions arise.”

Although he lives with PTSD, TBI, and physical injuries, Zagami felt that he should give no reason for his employer to feel that he was different from others, so he turned down accommodation offers and opted to not use crutches at work.

“I don’t want any reason to prove to other people that I’m different,” he said.  “I just want to come in here, and I want a chance to excel.”

And he does. David Michael, Zagami’s supervisor, says that Zagami comes to work every day and performs at an exceptionally high level, acting as a model employee to his fellow colleagues.

“People look to Jon for direction, and he has a way of motivating those around him toward accomplishing difficult tasks,” he said. “A lot of our customers are having challenging or difficult financial times, and he’s able to calmly work with them and make them feel good about the solutions we are offering.”

Zagami says that his ability to work on the most stressful projects while keeping calm and focused is due to his perspective on life.

“I’m lucky that I have an opportunity to work with the most difficult portfolio that we have. I enjoy it every single day,” he said. “While it stresses some people out, I can keep a smile on my face and say this is not that bad, because I know how bad it really can be.”

Zagami demonstrates leadership and motivation in the workplace, and his actions are telling of his appreciation for his job. He thinks that employers should take the opportunity to hire Veterans for their unique skill set and experience.

“If I had the ability to hire someone who had worn the uniform over a peer with the same education level, or the same experience, it’s a no-brainer to me.  I know that this person’s been tried.”

Research Key for Soldiers Finding Employment

By Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

As employment for our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers continues to be an important focus for Army leadership, these Soldiers and Veterans need to do their part by researching their chosen career field with resources available to assist with the job hunt.

It’s important that Soldiers start the Army Career and Alumni Program process as early as possible and take Transition Assistance Program workshops seriously. Soldiers who are serious about transitioning successfully into a civilian job or career should do the research and go the extra mile.

This can be a difficult choice for Soldiers who want to return to duty versus leave the military. However, they should have a plan b such as going to college or getting an extra certification. Employment experts also encourage Soldiers to consider their hobbies when considering job opportunities. What they enjoy doing  is as important as their knowledge, skills, and professional abilities. 

Experts also point out that Soldiers should make sure what they want to do will provide financially for their Family and take into consideration the cost of living and the salaries of different geographic locations. They recommend that Soldiers talk to their employment and education counselors and come in with a well thought-out plan and a willingness to try something new. 

There are several career and education resources available. Soldiers and Veterans looking for additional assistance can visit:

Army Career & Alumni Program (ACAP) – ACAP helps Soldiers transitioning from military service make informed career decisions through benefits counseling and employment assistance. ACAP is responsible for delivering both transition assistance and employment assistance services. While the ACAP Center traditionally has been the principal service provider for these services, now those transitioning have the option to use the ACAP website to receive services from any location with Internet capability 24/7.  https://www.acap.army.mil 

Department of Labor – Each state’s Department of Labor employs Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) representatives and Local Veterans Employment (LVER) Representatives who work in the one Stop Career Centers. To find your local DVOP/LVER use the DVOP/LVER locator website. http://dvoplverlocator.nvti.ucdenver.edu

Hero 2 Hired – Hero2Hired (H2H) was created to make it easy for servicemembers to connect to and find jobs with military-friendly companies. H2H also offers career exploration tools, military-to-civilian skills translations, education and training resources, as well as a mobile app. Support for H2H is provided through the Department of Defense’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. https://h2h.jobs

U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command – Serves as the lead proponent for the U.S. Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Program. WTC ensures that non-clinical processes and programs that support wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers are integrated and optimized throughout the Army, and supports the Army’s commitment to the rehabilitation and successful transition of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers back to active duty or to Veteran status. http://www.wtc.army.mil/

VA Employment Resources

Damariz Escobar, her husband retired SSG Ismael Escobar, and SFC Kathy Shannon hear about federal job opportunities at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

By Liz Deakin, WTC Stratcom
With more than 250,000 people leaving the military each year, employment is an important aspect of reintegration into civilian society for many transitioning servicemembers. So whether you’re looking for a job at Veterans Affairs (VA)another federal agency, or you need help navigating opportunities in the private sector, below are VA resources to help Soldiers, Veterans, and their Family members obtain career advice and find jobs.

VA for Vets
VA for Vets facilitates the reintegration, retention, and hiring of Veteran employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They offer career-search tools for Veterans seeking employment at VA, career development services for existing Veterans, and coaching and reintegration support for military servicemembers. VA for Vets offers real-time, on-demand, round-the-clock support services.

  • Career Center – Translate military skills to civilian jobs, take self-assessments, build easy-to-read resumes, apply to open VA positions, and save all results into one profile
  • Coaches – Reach out for help with deployment and reintegration issues and questions related to employment at VA
  • Professional Development – Take online training to sharpen skills or to learn more about hot topics surrounding deployment and reintegration
  • Virtual Collaboration Tool – Interact with a coach, supervisor, or HR professional in a personalized virtual work space

The Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act 2011

  • The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 expands education and training opportunities for Veterans, and provides tax credits for employers who hire Veterans with service-connected disabilities.
  • The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) offers up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans for education programs that lead to a high demand occupation.

VetSuccess
VetSuccess is an easy to use website providing active duty servicemembers and Veterans with service-connected disabilities the resources, and tools they need to find and maintain suitable employment. 

Resources and tools include:

  • Access to multiple job search databases
  • Tips for job interviews, job applications, and resume and cover letters
  • Resume builder
  • Career explorer
  • Free online learning

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) VetSuccess program assists Veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. Servicemembers who received a VA disability rating may begin using this program while on active duty.

VR&E VetSuccess provides a comprehensive range of services, such as:

  • Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills, and interests for employment
  • Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services
  • Employment services such as job-training, job-seeking skills, resume development, and other work readiness assistance
  • Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives and job accommodations
  • On-the-job training, apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
  • Post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical, or business school
  • Supportive rehabilitation services including case management, counseling, and medical referrals
  • Independent living services for Veterans unable to work due to the severity of their disabilities

Education Benefits
The VA provides several educational benefits to help Soldiers progress toward their goals. Two of the most popular are:

  • Montgomery G.I. Bill: The Montgomery G.I. Bill is available for those who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. Servicemembers who choose to enroll in this program receive up to 36 months of education benefits, which may be used during active duty.
  • Post-9/11 G.I. Bill: The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. Servicemembers must receive an honorable discharge to be eligible for this benefit.

If you are looking for a job, education benefits, or career training in another field, the VA resources outlined above provide a good place to start. Whether its VA for Vets, Vet Success, or other programs, there is educational and employment help available for all Soldiers and Veterans including the Army’s wounded, ill, and injured.

 

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell Shares His Story of Transitioning to the Federal Workforce

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

(left to right) AW2 Veterans Wesley Spaid and Alvin Shell at the Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference. Shell shared his experience of working in the federal government for five years since his transition from the Army.

Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, WTC Stratcom posted more of CPT Shell’s story on the WTC blog. This post is an update on his remarks.

Yesterday, AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell spoke at the Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference, sharing his success story of working at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the last five years.

He was accompanied by his wife, Chilketha, and he was surprised to see his platoon sergeant, retired SSG Wesley Spaid—a surprise guest from Shell’s AW2 Advocate Yan Barry. Shell was injured in Iraq while trying to extinguish Spaid’s fire, resulting in third degree burns on more than 30% of both their bodies. They had not connected since 2006.

Alvin Shell was injured in 2004, sustaining severe burns to more than 33% of his body, in addition to several other injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, and muscle loss. When he received his medical retirement from the Army, he also received a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He told the conference attendees why finding employment post medical retirement was so important to him, “When my wife was feeding me and taking care of me right after my injury, I told myself that if I ever made it out of the bed I’d make sure she’d never have to work again.”

So he went to work as a law enforcement officer at DHS, one of the first wounded Veterans from the current conflicts to join the DHS staff. “If you come to my branch at DHS, I’m tough, I’m hard, but I’m fair. I don’t expect less from others than I do of myself.”

Now, Shell holds a supervisory position, serving as the Acting Deputy Division Chief in the Force Protection Branch in the Office of the Chief Security Officer. While the Department offered him every physical accommodation he could think of, it took some time for Shell’s supervisors to understand his abilities, in spite of his injuries. He learned that they were withholding his name from nomination for a class that could significantly enhance his career.

“They thought they were protecting me, helping me avoid a difficult situation where I couldn’t meet the physical requirements of the class,” said Shell. “Instead, they were holding me back. When I found out, I went to my supervisor and we talked about the specific physical requirements of the class, and he realized that I could do it.”

For example, the class only required you to run two miles, and Shell ran four miles a day. It also required target shooting, and Shell regularly shot from a further distance than the test required. Shell completed the class and graduated “top gun.”

“My supervisor and I both learned that we should have a conversation about my abilities, rather than focus on my disabilities,” he said.

Shell also opened up to the crowd and shared how much his priorities had changed since his injury. I was particularly struck when he told them that he’d always been a great Soldier, always getting top ranks in every course. However, he stated that after his injury, he realized he’d been putting his career above his Family. “Now, I have a good balance,” he said. “Now, I make sure to make my wife and sons a top priority, to go on vacation and to the boys’ sporting events. Even if it means that I only get a few hours of sleep at night, this is the stuff that matters.”

Editor’s Note: Are you an employer from the federal government or private sector interested in hiring a wounded warrior? E-mail AW2CareerProgram@conus.army.mil to connect with an AW2 Career Coordinator.

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Write a blog for WTC

Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.