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Program helps wounded vets find work

Nov. 12, 2012 - 08:21AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2012 - 08:21AM  |  
A service dog sits beside a Marine chief warrant officer 2 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The success of the Navy initiative to help wounded vets find jobs within the department has led to adoption of the program across the services.
A service dog sits beside a Marine chief warrant officer 2 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The success of the Navy initiative to help wounded vets find jobs within the department has led to adoption of the program across the services. (LANCE CPL. CHELSEA FLOWERS / MARINE CORPS)
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The top 10

Department of the Navy hiring statistics for fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30:
Top 10 veteran occupations:
• Information technology management
• Management and program analysis
• Police
• Administration and programs
• Engineering technical
• Logistics management
• Clerk/assistant
• Security guard
• Contracting
• Human resources assistance

Top 10 locations veterans were hired:
• Norfolk, Va.
• Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Va.
• Washington Navy Yard
• Patuxent River, Md.
• Quantico, Va.
• San Diego
• Kitsap, Wash.
• Cherry Point, N.C.
• Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
• Charleston, S.C.

Source: Department of Navy

SAN DIEGO — The success of the Navy's yearlong initiative to help wounded veterans find jobs within the department has led the Pentagon to adopt the program across the services, a top official said Oct. 30.

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SAN DIEGO — The success of the Navy's yearlong initiative to help wounded veterans find jobs within the department has led the Pentagon to adopt the program across the services, a top official said Oct. 30.

The move gives wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets with a disability rating of 30 percent or higher a better shot at one of the 800,000 civilian Defense Department jobs across the country. The goal is to employ qualified vets within 30 days from the time they enter the program and are ready to take on a job.

Juan Garcia, assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, who last year initiated the Defense Outplacement Referral Service, announced the servicewide rollout during the Navy's two-day Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Conference in San Diego on Oct. 29-30.

Wounded vets have a better chance of smoothly reintegrating into civilian life when they have jobs, Garcia said. It builds their confidence that they can cope despite their injuries and gives them the skills and income to support themselves and their families.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left thousands of troops wounded and disabled from improvised explosive devices and traumatic brain injuries, the signature war wounds of this era. And record numbers have been diagnosed or are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. For these and other reasons, wounded war vets, who have given so much in service to the country, have an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average.

"Our challenge is, how do we ensure the IED, the PTSD, the TBI don't become the Agent Orange of this generation," Garcia said. "If we are going to ask the private sector to step forward, then the Department of the Navy should lead."

DORS is a centralized job listing and placement system accessed through the department's human resources website, www.donhr.navy.mil">www.donhr.navy.mil. It gives wounded veterans priority for civilian jobs, linking them with opportunities and hiring managers with qualified candidates. In the past year, the Navy has hired 10,867 veterans, including 2,540 disabled vets. Of those, 1,835 were rated at least 30 percent disabled, according to Navy data.

Veterans of any service can register and use DORS if they have been honorably discharged, are ready to work and have a compensated service-connected disability of 30 percent or higher from injury or illness in the line of duty that is the result of armed conflict or an "instrumentality of war."

One-stop shop

Garcia described DORS as a one-stop shop where wounded warriors can post their résumés, scroll through tens of thousands of available jobs and even get one-on-one help to translate their military experiences into marketable skills on their résumés.

A cursory Internet search can identify 300 websites geared toward helping veterans find jobs, Garcia said, but many vets find these can be confusing and frustrating to navigate.

"In one fell swoop, a sailor or Marine can look across the entire Department of Defense, coast to coast and overseas, and within 30 days … be assigned a position that allows them to use their training and expertise, stay in the culture and stay on their feet," he said.

DORS is going to make the hiring process "exponentially simpler, easier and more accessible" for vets seeking employment and for human resource managers looking to place qualified people in Defense Department jobs, he said.

Army Sgt. Matthew Sullivan, 36, who lost a leg in Afghanistan after stepping on a mine in August 2010, landed a government job in San Diego in March, just four months after he was medically retired. He is a human resources assistant supervisor at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Sullivan learned about DORS while recuperating in the Warrior Transition Unit at San Diego Naval Medical Center. He welcomed the assistance, which included personal counseling and help crafting his résumé.

"It can be a little overwhelming to try to find jobs you are qualified for," he said. "Within two or three weeks, I had an interview and was offered a job. It happened real, real quick."

But the struggle to find work took much longer for Marine Sgt. Laura Langdeau.

Wounded in Iraq in April 2004, Langdeau, an aviation maintenance administrative specialist, was medically retired the following year. But for the next two years she struggled to find permanent work. The VA "wasn't much help," she said, and the TAP classes she attended seemed overwhelming. "I didn't have that guidance. My unit really didn't know what to do with me."

Langdeau scraped by with the help of her sisters and bounced around in college courses. "It was like survival," she said. In 2007, she took the first of several contractor jobs in California, but they were just temporary work.

But in June, Langdeau, 32, began work as a production coordinator at Joint Base Lakehurst, N.J., a full-time job she got through DORS. It could mean a new career and a new outlook.

"I'm good where I'm at," she said.

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