Veterans Benefit From VA, WRAMC Training Agreement
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 6, 2005 Veterans Affairs Department and Walter Reed Army Medical Center leaders took a step today toward helping severely injured servicemembers transition to civilian jobs.
Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson, left, and Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., Walter Reed Army Medical Center commander, sign a memorandum of understanding at Walter Reed on June 6. The agreement gives severely wounded servicemembers such as, from left, Matthew Braiotta, Eric Franklin and Tristan Wyatt, the opportunity to receive training through the VA while they are recuperating. Thirty-five servicemembers have already taken advantage of the program called VET IT. Fifteen of those 35 now have permanent VA positions.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
VA Secretary R. James Nicholson and Walter Reed commander Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., signed a memorandum of understanding at the Army medical center for the VA to offer vocational training and temporary jobs at its Washington headquarters.
"What we're doing I think is making good on President Lincoln's promise to care for them who have borne the battle and for their widow and for their orphan," Nicholson said. "It's only natural then, it seems to me, that the VA and Walter Reed should ink a partnership like VET IT, which taps into this inexhaustible supply of our young servicemembers' optimism and 'can-doism' that they're imbued with.
"I'm very proud of my colleagues at the VA and the team who's brought this program to fruition."
This agreement, Farmer said, establishes a partnership between VA's office of information technology and Walter Reed's education services division.
Servicemembers recovering at WRAMC from traumatic injuries will receive the training and jobs. Farmer said more than 800 veterans on medical hold at the center could benefit from this program.
"From the outset, we have taken the approach that there is much more to care and caring of these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines than the extraordinary clinical care (at WRAMC)," Farmer said. "As amazing and cutting edge as that care is and as far as that care goes in restoring their health and their physical functions, there is more to restoring lives."
The VET IT program already has 35 alumni, 15 of which currently have full-time jobs with the VA.
"Our aim was to assist these young disabled servicemembers with training with the hopes of moving them into new careers in the Department of Veterans Affairs to take the reins as we begin to retire," Jennifer Duncan, a management director in VA's office of information technology said.
VET IT has worked so well that there are plans to expand it. Run by volunteers, the program has been so successful because it is personalized for each veteran.
Matthew Braiotta, a pioneer in the VET IT program and a recent VA hire, is grateful for the opportunities. He was an Army scout with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and had planned to make the Army a career, when he was hit with an roadside bomb in Iraq. Braiotta said that the program has kept him from ending up, as he put it, dogging it out in college or in a dead-end job.
"I didn't know what was going on in my life," he said. "(Without VET IT) I'd probably be at home not getting very far very fast, and that's not the Army way."
Farmer praised the VA for its leadership role in training and hiring veterans.
"The VA carries by its very nature an interest and a responsibility for representing the interests of veterans," he said. "Your department performs that function by leading by example.
Farmer noted what VA is saying is, 'We put our money where our mouth is. We lead by example.'
"This program is a sterling example of that in action," he added.
Nicholson turned the praise on the servicemembers who sacrificed to defend the nation's freedoms.
"The memorandum of understanding between the VA and Walter Reed is, therefore, more than a symbol of our commitment to our disabled citizen soldiers, it is a welcoming portal to their rightful destiny earned in blood and sacrifice, open and waiting with the promise of a brighter future."