Since late 2008, the National Organization on
Disability has been working with severely injured veterans returning from Iraq
and Afghanistan as they plan, prepare for, and complete the transition from
military to civilian careers. Beginning with nearly two years of research and
consultation with injured veterans and their families, NOD designed and built a
new program for this purpose, called Wounded Warrior Careers. NOD will be releasing its report on the program this
Veterans Day. We're pleased to share with
you the Executive Summary from the report.
The Wounded Warrior Careers program was created at the invitation of the U.S.
Army and continues to work in close partnership with the Army Wounded Warriors
program, known as AW2. In its first four years, Wounded Warrior Careers has
served 275 seriously injured veterans, of whom 70 percent are now in jobs,
education, or training. Among Wounded Warriors not enrolled in WWC, the
comparable figure is just 34 percent.
The program began as a demonstration, intended to test
various ways of meeting the needs of injured veterans who are ready, willing,
and able to re-build their careers after retiring from the military with a
disability. It has continued to expand and document the methods that work best.
Beginning with three locations chosen for their high concentration of Wounded
Warriors - North Carolina, Colorado, and metropolitan Dallas, Texas - the
program is now prepared to expand to two more locations, with a third un-der
WWC begins with a referral from an AW2 Advocate, the
Army's principal liaison with Wounded Warriors. The Advocate typically enjoys a
strong confidential relationship with injured service members and a good
working knowledge of their readiness and determination to begin thinking about
a civilian career. This "warm referral" brings the veteran to WWC with an
expectation of trust and partnership that are essential to a relationship that
may need to last for several years, through multiple stages of planning,
preparation, and course-correction.
A trusting relationship is particularly important
considering the kinds of injury that are most common among veterans in WWC.
These prominently include Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and Traumatic
Brain Injuries (TBI)1,
often accompanied by major clinical depression. Until they are properly treated
and managed, the effects of these conditions can seriously complicate the
process of building clarity, confidence, and determination about a career path.
Consequently, the relationship between the Wounded Warrior and the Career
Specialist, WWC's frontline professional, incorporates six essential qualities:
It is personal, proactive, prolonged, holistic, results-focused, and
This means that Career Specialists deal
with each veteran's opportunities and challenges as an individual, unique case.
They take the initiative to keep the discussion going, often meeting with
veterans in their homes and communities and making certain that momentum is
maintained through-out the process. The relationship extends not just to
employment, but well beyond the first job, to ensure that momentary setbacks or
frustrations don't derail progress. Career Specialists work not with veterans
alone, but with their families and, later, with their employers to ensure that
career goals are integrated with other aspects of family life, health, and
well-being. Everything the veteran and Career Specialist do together is
organized around a succession of milestones, designed to produce concrete
accomplishments at every step of the transition. Along the way, WWC tracks data
on these accomplishments and aggregates the data to learn what methods are most
successful and what needs or problems deserve more attention. Finally, the
program is not intended to provide all services; Career Specialists seek out
partnerships with expert organizations including education, training,
workforce, and health providers to make certain that various activities are
part of a coherent whole, consistently leading to the goal of satisfying,
The first stage of the Wounded Warrior Careers
experience is Career Planning, when
veterans and Career Specialists chart a realistic but effective path from
military to civilian life. They explore the veteran's interests and ambitions,
formulate goals, identify obstacles, and sort through the steps and available
resources that could help overcome the obstacles and reach the goals. This
stage ends with the development of a Career Action Plan, a long-range roadmap,
covering five or more years, developed jointly by the veteran and the Career
Next comes Career Preparation, when the Career Action Plan begins to be turned into
action. Depending on what the plan calls for, the veteran might enroll in
education or training, pursue referrals to other services and supports, and,
when appropriate, take a step into transitional or supported employment. Career
Specialists work hand-in-hand with them at every step in this process,
sometimes accompanying them to explore options or working with them on
applications for benefits. In the third stage, Job-Seeking
Support, Career Specialists guide
veterans through the actual work of translating interests, abilities, and
skills into a job and a career, including helping them develop a résumé, introducing
them to prospective employers or job-search programs, helping them plan and
negotiate accommodations they may need on the job, and seeking out job
opportunities that might match their goals.
In Post-Placement Support, the final stage, Career Specialists offer an
ex-tended period of guidance and support with problem-solving after the
vet-eran takes a job. They may tackle issues such as housing, ongoing job
coaching, interacting with employers, on-the-job performance, and general
advocacy on the veteran's behalf. Here, the Career Specialist gains another
client: the employer. Employers may need help in recruiting and assimilating
veterans with disabilities into the workforce, making necessary accommodations,
or simply understanding the veteran's transition and dispelling misplaced
worries or preconceptions.
As the field of workforce development becomes more
familiar with the needs of injured service members, more and more organizations
are beginning to offer programs tailored to their needs. NOD has therefore
commit-ted itself to encouraging and enriching this development, with efforts
to expand avenues of communication, consultation, and networking among the
various programs and organizations that seek to serve veterans. That includes a
vigorous effort to track our own progress, measure outcomes, document what we
learn, and share that information as broadly as possible.
The transition from the all-encompassing regimen of
military life to the free-form competition of the civilian labor market is difficult
for veterans under the best of circumstances. But for Wounded Warriors,
suddenly and violently separated from a career to which, in many cases, they
had planned to dedicate their lives, and thrust into a civilian job market
where their skills may be poorly understood and undervalued, the transition can
be far more forbidding. Add in the effects of PTSI and TBI - conditions that
complicate planning, learning, and confidence, the most basic requisites of
starting a new career - and the need for support grows much deeper. The
standard model of self-directed workforce programs is much less likely to work
for injured veterans. Something fundamentally different is required. That is
the reason for Wounded Warrior Careers.
The successful transition of injured veterans into satisfying
civilian employment provides an invaluable opportunity for the United States to
continue benefiting from the dedication, talent, and leadership of its bravest
young people. But more fundamentally, making sure that this transition is
successful is the ultimate debt we owe to those most severely injured in their
country's service. The question that WWC seeks to answer is therefore not
whether such an effort is called for, but how creative, smart, and effective
that effort can be.
THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION ON DISABILITY was founded in 1982 with the
mission of expanding the participation and contribution of America's 54 mil-
lion men, women, and children with disabilities in all aspects of life.
cent years, NOD has concentrated on the mission of increasing employment opportunities for the 79 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities who are not employed.
With programs on the
ground, NOD is demonstrating new employment practices and models of service delivery,
evaluating results, and sharing successful approaches for widespread replication. We are
conducting research on disability employment issues, including the field's most widely used polls on employment trends and the quality of life for people with disabilities.
And our subject matter
experts in disability and employment provide consulting services to public agencies and employers seeking to harness the unique talents that people with disabilities can bring to the workforce.
For more on the National
Organization on Disability, visit www.nod.org.
Sep 27 2012, 02:38 PM
Filed under: VA, depression, veterans, careers, jobseekers, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), career planning, U.S. Army, careerer specialist, traumatic brain injury (TBI), career preperation, National Organization on Disability (NOD), Army Wounded Warriors (AW2), workforce development, Wounded Warrior Careers (WWC), post traumatic stress injury (PTSI)