Veterans are strong, reliable and capable. Our nation invested in them to take on the hardest job description on the market – protecting us from those who wish to do us harm. So helping Veterans find civilian employment isn’t a matter of philanthropy – it’s VA’s family business: We take care of those who took care of us. The Department of Defense (DoD) started the investment when these men and women put on the uniform and took the oath; VA continues that investment – and America’s promise to them – after the uniform comes off.
One of our newest programs is helping wounded warriors improve their independence and confidence as they transition out of service and into civilian careers. VA is working closely with DoD to reach out to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines where they are currently serving – on military bases. Two hundred Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) counselors – who provide assistance with job training, employment accommodations, resume development and job seeking skills coaching — are now available on bases across the country to assist transitioning Servicemembers as they make the move to civilian employment. And many of these counselors, including Army Veteran Quentil Merrill stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico and Navy Veteran K. Paul Barlow currently helping Servicemembers at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, are Veterans themselves.
VA’s new VR&E counselors have been placed at bases across the country with large “IDES” populations. IDES, or Integrated Disability Evaluation System, started in 2007 when DoD and VA collaborated to design a more seamless transition specifically for Servicemembers who could no longer continue with their military careers for medical reasons. VA’s new program targets IDES sites for the expansion of VR&E’s services through new on-site counselors, ensuring that Servicemembers expecting to transition out of military service due to wounds, illnesses or injuries have the support they need when preparing for the civilian job market.
Currently, these new counselors are in place at 71 military installations and available to meet with more than 25,000 transitioning Servicemembers annually. If you or someone you know is about to leave the military, VA counselors can provide the full range of VR&E counseling and benefit services much earlier in the transition process. This includes a comprehensive vocational assessment, development of a rehabilitation plan, and payment of tuition, books, fees and supplies for an approved training program. Additionally, transitioning Servicemembers are eligible for educational career counseling under VA’s Chapter 36 program. This counseling includes assistance in researching and choosing the best career options, navigating VA benefits, and personalized adjustment counseling and support to help remove other barriers to success.
To find out if a counselor is located at a base near you, contact VA at 1-800-827-1000 and ask to speak to your local VR&E office. You can find additional information about this and other VA benefits on the VA website and through eBenefits.
Connecting America’s Veterans to meaningful civilian employment is VA’s family business — but it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s what our country needs to do. Veterans are an asset to our nation, and by building their skills, funding their education, and providing them with training and counseling, we make businesses, communities, and our nation more competitive.
Curtis Coy is VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for the Office of Economic Opportunity