Everyday, millions of hardworking Americans report to their places of duty all across the country, and these civil servants quietly work to make your lives better, safer, healthier, more productive. Today, we in the Veterans Benefits Administration want you to know who we are. We want you to know that many of us are you, and we want to share with you what it is we do and why we care.
Meet Heather Osborne, the Veterans Benefits Administration’s lead contracting analyst in the Benefits Assistance Service, where she manages contracts that provide and bridge critical services for Veterans.
Working contracts for VBA is just the latest career progression for the service-connected disabled Marine Corps Veteran. At VA, Osborne has worked as a claims rater, a change management agent and a Veteran Service Organization liaison.
“There is always an opportunity to learn [at VA],” Osborne said. “Throughout my ten years, there has always been a chance for change and growth.”
To better understand the context of her growth, Osborne says, one must consider where she started. The Yonkers, New York native had a rough upbringing, the “textbook example” of poverty and family dysfunction. It’s why, as a teen, she enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after an encouraging encounter she had at a Memorial Day parade when she was young.
That’s when the seed for service was planted. Serving her country, she felt, would allow her to get out of her situation — if she was strong.
“We were poor,” she said. “We had no money and there was no way [out].”
Osborne was strong. She enlisted as a 3051 (supply) during the Gulf War era, and served with the 3rd FSSG in Okinawa, Japan.
“I completely fell in love with the culture and rigidity of [USMC] family structure,” she said. “It was such an opposite of what I experienced as a child.”
After her service, Heather used the GI Bill and VBA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VRE) program to earn a bachelor of science in community and human services. This, she felt, would allow her to continue serving, preferably where she could wear her Veteran status with pride.
“The Corps was my saving grace as a teen and it was my way out, my way off the streets. Every decision I made in life was based off that. But later on, I joined VA because I wanted to help Veterans and wanted to impact their quality of life,” she said. “I felt that if I became a rating specialist, I could change lives one case at a time. I joined the VA ranks in 2007 and I have been kicking butts and taking names ever since.”
Oorah, Heather. Semper fi.