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 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.


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.

Nominate a Case Manager

Now is your chance to recognize a case manager that has made a difference. Nominations for the 2010 DoD/VA Case Manager of the Year Award are now being accepted. This award recognizes a case manager whose work has transformed their field and contributed to the greater good—not only for their clients but for the DoD/VA community as well.

Amongst other criteria, the nominating committee will evaluate nominees based on their contribution to:

  • Advancing DoD/VA Case Management
  • Exemplifying the “Standards of Care” and “Standards of Performance” as defined in Case Management Society of America’s “Standards of Practice for Case Management”
  • Demonstrating service excellence to clients and the DoD/VA case management community on a daily frontline basis
  • Incorporating innovation, creativity, and resourcefulness in his/her case management practice
  • Assisting others through military community service by utilizing their case management skills in a non-practice setting

Applications must be postmarked and submitted by 2 April 2010

Please click here for the Call for Nominations document for detailed information on the criteria and the application and nomination process.

VA, Army officials to discuss collaborative efforts on TV

Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command and Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth participate in a Pentagon Channel interview that will air Friday. The two discussed the state of Army and VA collaboration as it relates to wounded-warrior care.

Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command and Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth participate in a Pentagon Channel interview that will air Friday. The two discussed the state of Army and VA collaboration as it relates to wounded-warrior care.

By Bob Moore, WTC PAO

Army and Veterans Affairs officials will discuss a number of programs in which the two departments collaborate to help wounded, ill and injured Soldiers on a Pentagon Channel interview Friday.

VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth, who also serves as a major in the Illinois National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, will appear on “This Week at the Pentagon” Dec. 4. The program will air at 4 p.m. EST.

The two officials will discuss goals of the Physical Disability Evaluation System Pilot program, the presence of VA advisors at military treatment facilities and Warrior Transition Units, and the virtual lifetime electronic records system.

Duckworth is a double amputee who lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm after the aircraft she was piloting was ambushed north of Baghdad in 2004.

“We invest so much in our Soldiers when we are training them when they’re serving on active duty,” Duckworth said. “We need to invest just as much into their futures after they take off the uniform. They are just as valuable.”

Duckworth explained what the PDES pilot program will achieve:

  • A single disability exam conducted to VA standards to be used by both VA and DoD
  • A single disability rating by VA that is binding upon both departments
  • Expeditious payment of VA benefits within 30 days of a separation from service

Cheek says he relies on the VA liaison officer within his own command to assist with his mission of transitioning seriously wounded, ill and injured soldiers back to the force or to productive civilian life.

“If we are to have Soldiers be able to step with confidence from the Army to civilian life, then we have got to set the stage through our own relationships with the VA,” Cheek said.

Other areas of Army and VA collaboration include the virtual lifetime electronic records system, VA collaboration with Transition Assistance Programs and VA liaisons and counselors located at military treatment facilities and Warrior Transition Units. Cheek said his mission for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers is not only to heal, but to transition them to a life they want to lead.

“We have a comprehensive transition plan, which focuses the Soldier’s future through a series of goal-setting. We look to inspire warriors toward their future because if they’re excited about their future they are going to heal faster,” Cheek said.

Executive Order on Veterans Employment

Photo of President Obama signing the executive order on the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Photo of President Obama signing the executive order on the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order to establish a Veterans Employment Initiative across the government to underscore the importance of recruiting and training Veterans, to increase the employment of Veterans, and to help recently hired Veterans adjust to the civilian workforce.

The executive order also creates an interagency Council on Veterans Employment that will be chaired by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, and with Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry serving as the Vice Chair and Chief Operating Officer of the Council. The Council will assist and advise President Obama in a government-wide effort to increase the number of Veterans employed by the federal government.

While the Executive Order aims to increase the employment of Veterans broadly, it does contain specific language to require the Council to coordinate with the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to promote further development and application of technology to assist transitioning servicemembers and Veterans with disabilities.

In a press release from the White House, President Obama stated that this initiative is about more than just repaying our nation’s debt to our Veterans for their courageous service to our country, “It’s also about continuing to fill the ranks of federal employees with men and women who possess the skills, dedication, and sense of duty that Americans deserve from their public servants. And few embody those qualities like our nation’s Veterans.”

The order from President Obama also establishes a Veterans Employment Program office within most federal agencies that will receive oversight from the Council on Veterans Employment. Each agency’s Veterans Employment Program will be responsible for identifying employment opportunities for Veterans, providing feedback to Veterans about their employment application, and helping recently hired Veterans adjust to a civilian life and workplace culture.

For more information about President Obama’s executive order, please visit

VA and DoD on the Mental Health Costs of War

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates meet before the first-of-its-kind National Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2009.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates meet before the first-of-its-kind National Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2009.

(Cross-posted from the White House Blog)

By Brandon Friedman

Brandon Friedman is the Director of New Media at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

When troops leave the active military after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, many find themselves lost in a blur of reality shows and superficiality–in a world where nothing explodes but tempers, and in a place where the rush of combat is soon dulled by the slow drip of alcohol. The symptoms of most Veterans might not be so pronounced, but there’s always someone living through this.

For my part, when I returned home in 2004, I sympathized with Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now – though, in my case, I made post-combat stress look way less cool. And while I never punched a mirror, I learned quickly that I wasn’t immune from the foundation-shaking effects that war can have on the mind.

The problem of post-traumatic stress is new for neither Veterans, nor for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. However — from “soldier’s heart” after the Civil War to “shell shock” to “combat fatigue” — the services have typically handled PTSD only to the point that it doesn’t boil over into a major social or political problem. And while that’s been good enough for many, it hasn’t been good enough for America’s combat Veterans.

However, that’s why DoD and VA are now coming together to not only seek practical solutions to mental injuries, but to de-stigmatize them as well. This week, for the first time, the departments are holding a joint national summit meant to harness “the programs, resources and expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the battlefield.”

In his opening remarks at the event, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki noted that “as a provider of mental health services, VA is challenging all of our assumptions about mental health care. We are undergoing a fundamental and comprehensive review of our programs to see that our approaches are Veteran-centric, uniform, and accessible.” But, he continued, “VA does not operate in a vacuum. Our collaboration with DoD is mission-critical because we share the same clients — the same population — at different stages in their lives. There can be no ‘seamless transition’ or ‘continuum of care’ without serious and high-quality collaboration between both departments.”

And that collaboration, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates is something that has, thus far been lacking.

As a Veteran myself, of course, I’m happy to see these steps being taken and I’ve been happy to attend. But much work remains to be done in terms of turning the dialogue at the summit into real change. I’m confident, however, that we’re now at a point where that can happen — primarily because both Secretaries understand that such change much start at the top with leaders who are willing to set the example.

Because, in reality, for the ideas from this summit filter down through the ranks, troops must be made to feel comfortable talking about and seeking assistance for these injuries. And if a company commander or a squad leader says it’s okay, then a young PFC coming off his or her first deployment, will be more at ease. And it is there — in the heart of military culture — where the real solution lies. Because, ultimately, it is those in uniform who will change the way America — and its military class — views mental injuries sustained in combat.

Both the military and the nation at large have far to go in terms of treating and de-stigmatizing the mental wounds of war, but any first step in a comprehensive process must include joint efforts on the part of VA and DoD. And now that Secretaries Shinseki and Gates are driving the dialogue between the medical field and ground combat commanders, that step has been taken.

We as troops, Veterans, and family members — just need to keep it going.

Suicide Prevention Month

–By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director–

The Army is working hard to bring mental wellness to the forefront of Soldier and Family care and remove the stigma from mental health concerns. Suicide is a potentially preventable tragedy that profoundly impacts the Army Family. During the month of August, TRICARE launched two new behavioral health care services. The first is the TRICARE Assistance Program (TRIAP), which allows TRICARE beneficiaries to speak with a licensed counselor 24/7 from the privacy of their own home or any other location of choice that has a computer, internet, and webcam. Eligible beneficiaries are active duty servicemembers, those eligible for transition assistance management program (TAMP) for six months following demobilization, members with TRICARE Reserve Select, as well as spouses and other eligible Family members 18 years of age or older. The second is access to behavioral health services including psychotherapy and medications under TRICARE’s telemental health care benefit. The Vice Chief of the Secretary of the Army also established a suicide prevention task force, of which AW2 is a part. More information will be provided to you in September about this task force.

Please remember our suicide prevention training and the A.C.E. technique in your daily interaction with colleagues, Soldiers, and Families. Visit these Web sites and be prepared to ask the hard questions, your efforts can save lives:

Editors Note: The VA Suicide Prevention Campaign has also launched an on-line chat service that enables Veterans, their Families and Friends to go online and anonymously chat with a trained VA counselor. For more information about this service, please visit

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