Group Reports Top Numbers in Wounded Warrior Jobs
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 A national organization has had such a high rate of success in its jobs program for severely wounded warriors, it’s calling on the Defense Department and other agencies to adopt its approach, officials of the nonprofit group announced.
At a news conference conducted by the National Organization on Disability at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters here today, officials said an evaluation of its four-year program shows 70 percent of its seriously wounded warriors are experiencing employment and education success at about twice the rate of veterans who are not in the program.
The findings of the study stem from the organization’s Wounded Warrior Careers program, which has had about 275 wounded veterans under its tutelage since the program became active in 2008 at the Army’s suggestion.
Candidates in the program often have severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, the two signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Of those 275 wounded warriors, the organization says the 70 percent represents those who are employed, in training or enrolled in other forms of education.
Organization representatives said veterans not in their Wounded Warrior Careers program have a comparative job rate of about 30 to 40 percent.
“The successful transition of wounded warriors into civilian careers provides an invaluable opportunity for the United States to continue benefiting from the dedication, talent and leadership of its bravest young people,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, a member of the organization’s board of directors, who led troops during Operation Anaconda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the months following 9/11. Hagenbeck also is a former Army deputy chief of staff for personnel and U.S. Military Academy superintendent.
“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,” Hagenbeck said. “The question, therefore, is not whether such an effort is called for, but how creative, smart, and effective that effort can be.”
Essentially, the organization demonstrates new employment practices, evaluates results and shares approaches for widespread use. Research on disability employment issues also is conducted, and it includes widely used polls on employment trends and the quality of life for people with disabilities.
Experts in disability and employment provide consultation to employers who want to hire people with disabilities because they bring unique talents to the work force, organization officials said.
“The dedicated career specialists at NOD [to whom wounded warriors are assigned] -- many of whom were wounded veterans themselves -- have developed a model that works, at a sustainable cost of about $3,500 per veteran, per year,” Hagenbeck said. “NOD is proud of the work we do on behalf of our veterans, and we wish to see the federal government, particularly the departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, as well as providers of career services to disabled veterans, embrace that model and expand its reach to many more deserving veterans.”
The organization works with employers, schools, the military, service providers, researchers and disability advocates. Conducted in three states with high concentrations of veterans -- Colorado, Texas and North Carolina -- the program covers career planning, career preparation, job-seeking support and post-placement support.
The organization’s representatives are scheduled to meet with congressional and Defense officials this week to share their study’s findings. The organization also is encouraging the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs and others on a national level to adapt its “proven, cost-effective” model that places severely wounded veterans into the civilian workforce, the organization’s officials said.