Program aims to help troops wounded in Iraq, Afghanistan find civilian jobs
ARLINGTON, Va. — Troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who want to continue to work but can’t return to active duty now have a program launched by the Labor Department to help them find jobs in the civilian sector.
Troops will get individualized help, from counselors identifying their interests and likes and matching those to available jobs and careers, to identifying what equipment or products, such as voice-activated computer software, they might need to do the job, said Chick Ciccolella, deputy assistant secretary for Veterans Employment and Training at the Labor Department.
“We provide person-to-person assistance and focus on employment assistance to the nation’s disabled servicemembers when they return from the global war on terror,” he said.
For now, the program is provided only to wounded servicemembers treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“Initially, we’re focusing on Walter Reed and Bethesda and have permanent, full-time out-stationed disabled veteran representatives on site, making person-to-person contact with those individuals.”
The counselors then will follow up to make sure the jobs meet the troops’ expectations and they are well equipped to do the job, he said.
Requests to interview patients were not granted.
Eventually, the program aims to expand other military treatment facilities treating troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany is a possibility, it is unlikely because wounded troops quickly transfer from there to stateside hospitals.
Counselors also will backtrack through hospital patient records to contact discharged troops and determine if they might be in need of the job services.
The program officially kicked off Monday, but has actually been operational for approximately 30 days, with one counselor posted at both Walter Reed and Bethesda, Ciccolella said.
The program mirrors, to an extent, services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA’s program differs in that it’s applicable to troops who suffer from a 20 percent disability rating or higher, said Judy Caden, director of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service at Veterans Affairs.
The VA’s program for disabled troops offers skills training from the basics of resume, interviewing skills, job market opportunities to individualized assessments addressing their specific disabilities and arraigning accommodations; “tools they need to perform job,” Caden said.
There are currently about 95,000 veterans in the overall program at various stages, she said, from those just applying to those who found jobs.
The Labor Department budgeted $500,000 to pay for the counselors, equipment, Internet services and to create a national assistance center of counselors and services targeted at wounded troops slated to come online by the spring, said Daniel Nichols, special assistant for strategic communications at Veterans Employment and Training.
General information on employment services for all Americans is available by calling 877-US2JOBS (877-872-5627) or on the Internet at www.jan.wvu.edu.