2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference Kicks Off Tomorrow

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

For wounded warriors who separate from the service, finding gainful employment is a vital next step.  It’s not just about the paycheck and health care, though—it’s about contributing to an organization, finding professional fulfillment, and building a better life for themselves and their Families.

For the next two days, AW2 is hosting the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference, in coordination with other service wounded warrior programs.  For two days, federal agency officials will learn about the importance of hiring wounded warriors and the skills they bring to any organization.  They’ll also learn about the resources they can use to place qualified Veterans in open positions and to ensure a successful result once the Veterans starts working–resources like special hiring authorities, Veterans preference, Operation Warfighter internships, non-paid work experience, and accommodations.

On the second day, local wounded warriors from all branches of the military will also have the opportunity to network with the officials attending the conference. 

AW2 is here to help severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers find their path to independence.  And this conference is one more example of the way AW2 paves the way for wounded warriors to succeed.

Check back to the AW2 blog over the next two days for more information about the conference.  We’ll keep you posted on the updates from keynote speakers, including several Assistant Secretaries and AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell, who is now working at the Department of Homeland Security.

VETS Program Works to Increase Employment Opportunities for Wounded Warriors

By Nancy Adams, WTC Education and Employment

Employment is one of the most important aspects of anyone’s life–particularly for Warriors in Transition (WTs) who are separating or medically retiring from the Army and AW2 Veterans. Finding employment can be challenging, but with hard work, determination, and support, a successful career is achievable.

The Warrior Transition Command (WTC) is keenly aware of the importance employment plays in a wounded warrior’s recovery and transition to life post-injury. For that reason, WTC works with various agencies and organizations to build career opportunities for separating-WTs and Veterans.

The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) is one example of an organization that is working with WTC to help transition WTs who are separating or medically retiring from the Army and AW2 Veterans who have already transitioned. Headed by the Department of Labor, VETS currently works with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to educate and inform top employers around the country about the benefits of hiring Veterans. The program highlights these benefits to employers and educates them about how hiring Veterans can help them achieve their hiring goals and their mission to support the military.

Currently, VETS is being piloted in 14 States and is intended to be rolled out nationwide. By continuing to engage employers and organizations, VETS, with the assistance of WTC, will open doors to new career opportunities for WTs. Employers and other organizations can find more information on the VETS program by visiting the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service website.

In light of Disability Awareness Month and whether you are an employer, organization, AW2 Veteran or a Family member, know that WTC along with other military and non-military organizations are working to provide the tools necessary for wounded warriors to successfully transition to civilian life.  

If you are a Warrior in Transition about to separate or medically retire from the Army, please contact your squad leader or commander about employment opportunities. If you are an AW2 Veteran, please learn more by contacting your AW2 Advocate or by checking out the AW2 Career and Education Web page.

National Resource Directory Overhaul

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

The National Resource Directory (NRD) is an online database of thousands of resources for wounded warriors.

The National Resource Directory (NRD) is an online database of thousands of resources for wounded warriors.

It seems like every day I am learning about a new organization that supports our wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers and Veterans, as well as their Families. For almost any goal a Soldier sets, there is a group to help the servicemember achieve that goal. It’s impressive to see the growing commitment by the American public at both the national and local level.

There are so many resources, in fact, that navigating them can be challenging to Soldiers. The Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs collaborated to produce the National Resource Directory (NRD), an online database of thousands of resources for wounded warriors. I spent some time looking through the site and was impressed by the wide range of resources available from Federal, state, and local government programs, as well as Veteran service organizations, nonprofit and community-based organizations, academic institutions, and professional associations.

The NRD re-launched this week, and it is now much easier to use. Some of the Web site’s improvements include:

  • RSS feeds and an e-mail subscription service allowing users to sign up for content updates
  • “In the News” and Spotlight features to highlight news and updates in the wounded warrior, Veteran and caregiver community
  • New “homelessness” section of the site featuring VA resources for homeless Veterans
  • Improved search function to allow users to search by national or state resource, as well as government or non-government
  • Alphabetical and popularity-based views for NRD resources

I encourage all wounded warriors and their Families to use the National Resource Directory as a starting point to find available local resources that meet their individual situations.

Employing Veterans with Invisible Wounds

The Associated Press recently ran a great story highlighting the Army’s efforts to educate employers about hiring wounded warriors who have “invisible wounds” or behavioral health illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The article calls attention to the need for employers to make accommodations for Veterans with both visible and invisible wounds:

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, has been reaching out to employers to educate them and encourage them to hire former soldiers with invisible wounds…

“Employers find it easier to accommodate those physical disabilities. They can get special equipment,” said Sue Maloney, who works with veterans in the Wounded Warrior Program in the Seattle area. But “you can’t always see the wounds or the injuries.”

The article shows some of the ways that employers can accommodate Veterans who have PTSD and TBIs through the example of Richard Martin, a 48-year-old engineer and former Army National Guard Major, who now works for Northrop Grumman. When Martin was hired, Northrop Grumman consulted occupational nurses on how to help him do his job. Martin also helped himself by using noise canceling headphones to keep him from getting distracted, sticky notes to remind him of things, and by placing a rearview mirror on his desk so he isn’t startled when co-workers come up behind him.

In addition to these accommodations, there are many others that employers can make to assist Veterans with “invisible wounds” to successfully transition to the civilian workforce. To learn more about the types of accommodations that employers can make, I talked with AW2 Career Coordinator Scott Cox in our headquarters about the topic.

“There are a number of accommodations that employers can easily make, at little to no cost, to assist Veterans with PTSD and TBIs,” said Scott Cox. “Most employers make these types of accommodations everyday for their existing workforce. Wounded Veterans bring a tremendous amount of experiences and skills that employers seek. Employers just need more information on how to support Veterans with invisible injuries.”

Scott Cox then shared a list of accommodations that employers can provide to assist Veterans with PTSD, TBIs, and other behavioral health issues from the Job Accommodation Network. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Provide space enclosures or a private space
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset
  • Divide large assignments into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
  • Allow longer or more frequent work breaks as needed
  • Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Allow for time off for counseling
  • Give assignments, instructions, or training in writing or via e-mail
  • Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before a crisis occurs
  • Allow employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Use stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises

For the complete list, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network Web site.

As you can see, many of these accommodations aren’t all that different from those that employers already make for many employees in their workforce. However, it is important to remember that each case is different, as Scott Cox pointed out in our conversation, “Every wounded Veteran is different and the accommodations made should be tailored to that particular Veteran’s needs. AW2 works with employers to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for both the hiring organization and the Veteran.”

If you are an employer interested in hiring a Veteran with invisible wounds, please contact an AW2 Career  Coordinator via email at AW2careerprogram@conus.army.mil or call (703) 325-0579.

BG Cheek attends CODE Launch Event

BG Cheek, the Commander of the Warrior Transition Command, attended the launch event for Call of Duty Endowment (CODE) last week. CODE is a new endowment fund created by Activision Blizzard, which aims to combat unemployment among Veterans. Activision Blizzard created the endowment organization with a commitment to raise millions of dollars to help raise awareness of Veterans unemployment and directly fund organizations that support Veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.

In a press release, Activision Blizzard stated that it created the endowment after recognizing that its Call of Duty Modern Warfare video game series is extremely popular among troops, and that it wanted to give back to servicemembers by using proceeds from the sale of an upcoming game to help Veterans find employment. The organization has an advisory board composed of Veterans representing various branches of the military and the board will help identify organizations that will receive grants to raise awareness of the issue.

BG Cheek attended the launch event for the organization and stressed the need to help Veterans transitioning from the service with employment opportunities according to the press release:

“I could make the case that based upon the service and sacrifice of our Veterans that American employers have their own call of duty to ensure they have the opportunity for gainful employment and a viable career,” Cheek said. “Our soldiers have a lot to offer: integrity, discipline, teamwork, and personal sacrifice for a greater good. I can think of no stronger candidates for any positions employers might be looking to fill. These brave men and women willingly put their lives on the line to protect the blessings of liberty enjoyed by every business in this great country of ours.”

CODE’s first grant of $125,000 was awarded to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), which will be used by the organization to help underwrite the cost of a new PVA Vocational Rehabilitation Services Center in Boston, MA.

Click here to visit the new CODE Web site to learn more about this organization.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

BG Cheek attends CODE Launch Event

BG Cheek, the Commander of the Warrior Transition Command, attended the launch event for Call of Duty Endowment (CODE) last week. CODE is a new endowment fund created by Activision Blizzard, which aims to combat unemployment among Veterans. Activision Blizzard created the endowment organization with a commitment to raise millions of dollars to help raise awareness of Veterans unemployment and directly fund organizations that support Veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.

In a press release, Activision Blizzard stated that it created the endowment after recognizing that its Call of Duty Modern Warfare video game series is extremely popular among troops, and that it wanted to give back to servicemembers by using proceeds from the sale of an upcoming game to help Veterans find employment. The organization has an advisory board composed of Veterans representing various branches of the military and the board will help identify organizations that will receive grants to raise awareness of the issue.

BG Cheek attended the launch event for the organization and stressed the need to help Veterans transitioning from the service with employment opportunities according to the press release:

(more…)

AW2 Soldier Accepts Job with Congressman

– by Zachary Guill, AW2 Soldier –

This is to give hope to all the military personal mainly combat arms, that there are jobs and people looking for vets to hire when you get out.  In the Army I was 11B1P (Airborne Infantry).  I deployed 3 times, 2003 to 2004 to Iraq out of Vicenza, Italy, and again 2005 to 2006 to Afghanistan, and to Iraq for one last time in 2006 from Ft. Hood.  My time in Iraq the last time was cut short due to an IED.  We all know that once you get out of the military that the prime jobs for combat arms are in law enforcement, but where do you get a job if your injured and can’t run or pass a physical training test.  After my Medical Board I began working in casino survallence, not the best pay but it was a job.  About a month into that job, I got a phone call from my AW2 rep. telling me about a program through the House of Representatives that places wounded soldiers into Congressional positions.  I was all for it, who better to help a VET than someone who has already been through the experience.  I sent my resume to her and she forwarded it on.  I later was called for an interview and hired.  I have been working for my Congressional Rep. since December.  Since working in the office, I have seen many people willing and preferring to hire veterans.  There are many programs that aren’t publicized that well but they are out there.  A lot of the problems I help people with are problems that I faced and we all faced in the military.  So don’t give up, jobs are out there and if not then there are people out there willing to help you out.  I do know that the Wounded Warrior Program through the House of Representatives is still looking for people to sit in Congressional offices.

A Spouse’s “Thank You”

– by Dolly Flanigan –

I just want to say thank to the AW2 program for all it has done for my family.

Tom, my husband, was not sure what he was going to do after being retired from the Army. Our AW2 Advocate, Ms. Garrett helped us in many different ways, including finding extra money for transitioning from the Army to civilian life. She also helped my husband get a job with the Corp of Engineers.

Ms. Garrett kept in contact with Tom and told him the AW2 program was going to start helping AW2 spouses find employment. He asked me to contact her about this program, and less than a month later I am work in the hospital at Ft. Knox which I have been trying to get in for the last 2 years.

The AW2 program is a wonderful. I hope more people will take the opportunity and time to use the AW2 program. It has helped my family a great deal.

Thank you Ms. Garrett and the AW2 program.

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