First implemented as a pilot program in 2014, the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Warrior Training Advancement Course (WARTAC) boasts more than an 85 percent hiring rate, with hundreds of Veterans having graduated the program since its inception.
Starting with graduating classes at Forts Carson and Belvoir in Colorado and Virginia, the joint VA and Defense Department program has expanded to seven locations, including major military installations at Camp Pendleton, California, Ft. Hood, Texas, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. At its outset, WARTAC was available exclusively to wounded warriors in transition from military service. It has since expanded to other transitioning service members interested in careers at VA.
While WARTAC serves to provide qualified Veteran service representatives (VSRs) to serve Veterans at VA, the highlight of the program is the answer it can provide transitioning Veterans looking for ways to continue to serve, and serve their fellow Veterans. VSRs process Veterans’ disability and compensation claims for VA.
For 14-year Army Veteran Jennifer Skuta, based at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, the training course presented a positive outcome after a medical separation brought an unexpected end to her Army service.
“It has taken a lot of stress off of me knowing that if I put in the work, I will have a federal job, I will keep my military time served and I can be closer to home; crossing my fingers, said Skuta. “I am truly grateful for this opportunity, and I believe working with the Veterans Benefits Administration is something to be proud of as I will be able to continue to serve, albeit in a different capacity.”
Rafeal Negron, a human resources sergeant and recent WARTAC graduate, was inspired by another Veteran’s terminal cancer diagnosis to take his customer service background from the Army to VA.
“I took it personally. At that time I remember reading in the newspaper that if a person comes with a diagnosis of a disease that may cause a death within a year, the soldier can request 50 percent of his life insurance in advance. I asked him if he could stay a little bit longer in my office because I wanted to summit some documents to the human recourses office ‘to your benefit’, and I explained to him what I’d read,” said Negron. “I submitted the document and he was the first case approved with in the Army. At that time, I figured out that my job as a human resources sergeant is a customer service job, and I’m working for soldiers. Now it’s easier to understand that, as a VSR, my job is to help Veterans to get what they’ve earned.”
Fort Buchanan hosted one of the course’s most recent commencements on March 30, graduating 29 service members, including Skuta and Negron, with the skills necessary to serve as Veteran service representatives with the VBA.
Marking the significance of the program and its value to many Veterans and VA, Acting Under Secretary for Benefits Thomas J. Murphy cited the platform the program provides Veterans to uniquely continue their service.
“WARTAC gives us the opportunity to transition veterans out of military service and into the VA,” said Murphy at the Fort Buchanan commencement. “We train Veterans who understand what a service member has gone through, what their needs are, and now coming to this side allows them to continue serving in a different capacity. We train Veterans to serve Veterans.”
Service members interested in participating the WARTAC program should contact their local military installation transition program manager.
This article was submitted to VAntage Point by the Veterans Benefits Administration.