Marine veteran paying it forward

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Marine Veteran

BY CHARITY EDGAR, DAV

DAV claims assistance inspires Marine veteran to give back as service officer

After receiving assistance from DAV benefits specialist Dan Knabe, Marine Corps veteran Mike Franko was inspired to give back. Just months after receiving a corrected rating from the VA, the Afghanistan War veteran began training as a Department of Missouri service officer, a role where he can pay it forward to fellow veterans.

Mike Franko filed a claim for disability benefits following his discharge from the military in 2016, but an error resulted in the Marine Corps veteran not receiving the benefits he earned through service.

After being rated at zero percent for his battered knees and denied a rating for post-traumatic stress, the former infantryman was convinced he did not warrant support through the VA. That all changed when he was referred to DAV.

“Initially, I was thinking there’s too many Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who deserve it more than me, but I was finally convinced I’m as deserving as they are,” said Franko, who served as a squad leader in Afghanistan. “[My family and friends] said, ‘Your back and legs are messed up from being blown up; you deserve support.’”

Someone suggested he speak with a veterans service organization. That is when he met DAV National Service Officer Dan Knabe.

The DAV benefits advocate reviewed Franko’s files and immediately DAV Assistancesaw red flags.

“Mike had pain in motion, and in accordance with VA rules, that is automatically a 10 percent evaluation,” said Knabe. “That got me curious, and then I looked further and saw the denied service connection for post-traumatic stress. The decision confirmed a diagnosis but not a stressor.”

Knabe sifted through the veteran’s files and noticed he had received a Combat Action Ribbon.

“That is when I knew there was a clear and unmistakable error, because that award is a presumptive stressor for post-traumatic stress,” explained Knabe, an Army veteran. He immediately went to meet with his VA counterparts. They agreed with his discovery and quickly came back with a correct rating that provides Franko access to the benefits and services he should have been awarded right away.

“We do not typically find that many mistakes, but cases like this show the spirit of a service officer,” said Knabe. “It puts that feeling in your heart that you’re making a difference.

“We have a great professional relationship with the VA here in St. Louis and communicate regularly on cases, give each other feedback and come to a mutual agreement in order to get the veteran what’s right based on their record.”

St. Louis VA Regional Office Director Mitzi Marsh agreed on the importance of working together.

“The regional office’s goal is to make the right decision and provide all the benefits veterans have earned. If there is a concern, we work closely with veterans service organizations to review it and, if necessary, correct the problem,” said Marsh, an Army veteran. “We see our relationship with veterans service organizations only continuing to grow in the future through initiatives like Decision Ready Claims and other programs.”

“I was retroactively awarded, and I don’t think that would have happened without Dan’s help,” said Franko. “Dan expedited the whole process, especially compared to my original claim.”

Franko had wanted to work in law enforcement but knew his injuries would inhibit him. So instead, he decided to pay forward Knabe’s assistance to other veterans.

“I thought if I can’t serve my local community, then why don’t I serve the veteran community,” said Franko. “After seeing Dan work and do what he did for me, now I can sit on his side of the desk and help fellow veterans.”

He relayed his interest to Knabe. The next day, Franko received a call about a service officer position with the DAV Department of Missouri and was told he should apply.

Knabe, who had gone through his own rough patch after a deployment to Iraq but received help through the VA, said he’d found his way to serve veterans in a similar way.

“I was [a noncommissioned officer] so I have always had a passion to help. I was making sure soldiers were successful not only in the military but in life,” Knabe said. “I was lost when I came back, trying to find meaning as a civilian, and that’s when I found DAV. It’s about service and the mission. DAV saved me from a dark time and restored my sense of purpose.

“DAV took care of me, and now I hope I take care of DAV. I am honored it inspires Mike to have that same passion to assist fellow service members.”

DAV Department of Missouri Adjutant Michael Elmore was happy to welcome Franko on board.

“We are excited to have Mike join 16 other dedicated veterans as a DAV Department of Missouri service officer,” said Elmore. “The Show-Me State is fortunate to have another talented advocate assist the nearly half a million veterans living in Missouri with DAV’s life-changing benefits and services.”

Franko began his training in November and looks forward to bringing his unique skill set as a recently discharged veteran to the office.

“I’m young blood with a fresh mind, bringing a new perspective that can hopefully help veterans not just through claims but also different aspects of life,” said Franko.

“It is a victory anytime we can help a veteran with a claim, but to have a client be so inspired they choose to give back in their career full-time is incredibly meaningful,” said DAV National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “DAV is veterans helping veterans, and Dan and Mike are living examples of our mission of service.”

Kirstie Ennis: Going “Full Throttle”

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Kirstie Ennis

By Brady Rhoades

Veteran Kirstie Ennis is one of the best Paralympian snowboarders in the world, and she’s also eying the seven great summits, recently climbing 19,341-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and 16,024-foot Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia. On one leg.

As a Marine Corps sergeant. in Afghanistan—a helicopter door gunner—she wrecked a leg when the helicopter she was in crashed. That leg was amputated above the knee in 2015.

Her jaw was destroyed, she lost teeth, she injured discs in her spine, and she suffered facial lacerations, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.

In the process of undergoing more than 40 surgeries, she came to a realization, acquiring a come-to-terms toughness and wisdom that would help motivate her to train as a snowboarder for the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang County, in the Gangwon region of South Korea.

And to attempt to conquer the tallest peaks on all seven continents.

Countless times a day, she repeats one of her mantras: Stop worrying about what you lost. Look at what you’ve got. Or: What counts is what’s behind your rib cage and six inches between your ears.

She’s only 26, but her near-death experience offered an invaluable lesson on how precious time is.

“I go full throttle,” she said. “I come up with obnoxious goals and I go after them.”

It’s hard to believe that this fifth-gear athlete chasing Paralympian goals—and literally ascending historic heights for an above-the-knee-amputee mountain climber—spent months in hospital beds, nearly lifeless, filled with doubt, enveloped in depression. She wondered how she’d ever get around, go on. What would she do? Would she ever wear a dress again? Would anyone ever be attracted to her?

Idle time can be a wounded warrior’s worst enemy. Fathers can be their best friends.

“Dad said, ‘People in the Middle East couldn’t kill you, and now you’re going to collapse?'” she recalls. “The light went on and I said, ‘I made it home. Nobody owes me a damn thing.'”

Kirstie Ennis

Ennis had to mine for the toughness that is at her core, but her sense of humor? That comes effortlessly.

The same year her leg was amputated, she participated in the Walking with the Wounded event, in which wounded warriors trek 1,000 miles, ending at Buckingham Palace in London. Ennis left dozens of dog tags bearing the names of fallen comrades along the way. She also met Prince Harry, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

Prince Harry, not one to shirk his duties, logged many miles during the event. At one point, he turned to Ennis and complained that his knee ached.

“I looked over and was like, ‘That’s (expletive) cute, really,’” Ennis said. Prince Harry cracked up.

Ennis and Prince Harry became fast friends. At the conclusion of her walk, she presented the final dog tag to him.

Their embrace was photographed and zoomed across the wires, making her a celebrity in a matter of minutes.

For her service to the country, Ennis has earned the NATO Medal, Combat Action Wings with three gold stars, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan National Campaign Medal, two Letters of Appreciation, Certificate of Commendation, and a Certificate of Appreciation.

But who says you can’t be uber-tough and sexy?

ESPN called, asking her to grace the cover of ESPN The Magazine‘s 2017 Body Issue, with rather risqué photos of her on the inside pages. They wanted her to climb Joshua Tree, sans clothes.

She had her doubts. But Ennis tends to run toward challenges, toward fear.

“I thought about it and considered the demographic and the people Kirstie Ennisthat would see it, and I realized that it wasn’t about me anymore,” she said. “Any man, woman, or child facing some sort of adversity has the potential to be inspired by these pictures of someone who has only been missing her leg for a few years go out and do things she wasn’t doing with two legs.”

Ennis appeared in the Body Issue, along with other great athletes, such as Javier Baez (baseball), A.J. Andrews (softball), and Malakai Fekitoa (rugby).

The daughter of two Marines, Ennis enlisted out of Florida when she was 17 years old, in 2008. She served for four years as a helicopter door gunner and airframes mechanic when disaster struck on June 23, 2012.

While on her second deployment in Afghanistan, Ennis’ CH-53D helicopter crashed in the Helmand Province.

Badly injured, she fought to remain on active duty but was medically retired in 2014. After her below-the-knee amputation on November 23, 2015, Ennis contracted the antibiotic-resistant MRSA and, because of a resulting infection, doctors were forced to remove her knee a month later.

“A below-the-knee amputation is night-and-day from above-the-knee,” she said. “You have to relearn everything. You’re basically a toddler.”

When she was told that surgeons would have to perform above-the-knee surgery, she said she “lost it.” She cried. She wailed.

“It’s one curveball after another,” she said.

She still struggles, emotionally. “I’d be lying if I said it’s easy,” she said.

Two years after her life-altering surgery, she’s adapted, and she’s developed coping skills, which is a critical component of recovery.

Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t.

Set lofty goals.

Stay busy.

And true to her military training, be of service to others.

“When I’m having a bad day, I help someone who’s missing three limbs,” she said. “There’s this common misconception about what strength is. In the grand scheme of things, we’re in this together. You have to realize that you have to turn to somebody.”

Some of her best days involving helping other wounded warriors—whether it be through her notoriety as a star Paralympian or simply visiting a hospital.

“I know I’m on a platform,” she said. “I want to inspire people to reach their potential.”

She recalls a wounded warrior uttering eight words that she’ll never forget and that make her journey—as harrowing as it has been—worth it.

“You inspired me to walk another 10 steps,” the woman said.

 

Best Jobs For Veterans 2018

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Best Jobs for Veterans

Eight of the best civilian jobs for transitioning veterans have been identified by one of the top job search sites, CareerCast. These include registered nurse, financial advisor, info security analyst and operations research assistant, among others.

“There are many benefits to hiring veterans,” says Kyle Kensing, online content editor, CareerCast. “The discipline, teamwork and leadership qualities emphasized in the military directly translate to the civilian workforce. Skills gained during military service are in high demand.”

Public and private sector efforts to recruit and employ veterans have paid major dividends in lowering the unemployment rate for veterans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that of the approximately 21.2 million men and women with military experience, an unemployment rate that hovered near 10 percent just seven years ago has been cut almost in half.

The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act was designed for the Department of Labor to match veterans with career paths based on their responsibilities while in service. Private-sector companies are also launching their own hiring initiatives to match veteran job seekers with open positions.

Growing emphasis on technological skills in the military translate well to a growing market for IT professionals. Information Security is an area of growing importance in both military and government matters. Veterans who work specifically in IT security during their service can effectively translate their skills into government positions of the same nature.

Another area of emphasis in military service is healthcare. Nursing positions are also in demand for enlisted personnel, and many states allow veterans with experience as nurses in the military to apply that experience to civilian certification.

For those veterans looking to use their civilian careers to make a positive impact for others in the military, careers in management and finance offer great opportunities. Businesses tailoring their outreach to the veteran community are increasingly turning to veterans for management consultant and operations research analyst positions.
Financial advisor is the No. 1 most in-demand field in the CareerCast Veteran Network job database. Veterans with a background in mathematics and finance can work directly with military families to help them protect their investments and savings.

The improved employment landscape for veterans isn’t merely a boon to one section of the workforce. Veterans bring skills that greatly benefit employers, making them prime candidates in a variety of fields.

Here are eight of the best jobs for veterans:

Profession Annual Median Salary* Growth Outlook*
Financial advisor $89,160 30%
Information security analyst $90,120 18%
Management consultant $81,320 14%
Nurse practitioner $104,740 31%
Operations research analyst $78,630 30%
Registered nurse $67,490 16%
Sales manager $113,860 5%
Software engineer $100,690 17%

The best jobs for veterans were selected from the 200 professions covered in the Jobs Rated report as a good match based on their responsibilities and skills gained while in service.

Wages and projected growth outlooks through 2024 are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To read the full report, visit veteran.careercast.com/jobs-rated
Source: veteran.careercast.com/jobs-veterans

PAVE Employment Event Series Connects Veterans to a World of Opportunity

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PVA

WASHINGTON, D.C.—PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), a leading provider of vocational counseling and job placement assistance for veterans a flagship program under Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), will be conducting six PAVE Employment Events that bring veterans and transitioning service members together with prospective employers to overcome the significant barriers they face in the workplace. Events will be held in key markets across the U.S. in 2018.

PAVE is open to all veterans, their spouses and the caregivers of disabled veterans. PAVE counselors work to connect those individuals with a network of over 1,200 corporate partners committed to supporting veterans and their families. Services are offered to veterans, spouses and caregivers at no cost and once a participant joins the program, they are a partner for life. This ensures the long-term success of the veteran workforce and gives participants the confidence needed to take on whatever challenges lie ahead.

“We have this great group of veterans entering the workforce that has already undergone extensive training but in many cases, needs a little assistance navigating the job market,” said Shelly Stewart, national program director for PAVE. “It’s incredibly rewarding to help guide them through that process and watch them flourish.”

While PAVE is open to any veteran, spouse, or caregiver, the program is run by the Paralyzed Veterans, an organization chartered over 70 years ago to ensure paralyzed veterans receive the benefits they deserve through their service. This has placed PAVE in a unique position to address the needs of paralyzed veterans in the job market, such as mobility, accessibility, and other physical challenges.

“PAVE has been an integral part of our recruiting efforts and helping us place veterans in our organization. They put veterans’ needs first,” said Thomas Birch, recruitment consultant for Xceed Group.

In 2016, there were roughly 20.9 million veterans in the U.S. That accounts for about nine percent of the civilian non-institutional population and a major contributor to the American workforce. PAVE Employment Events give organizations the opportunity to directly connect with this vast pool of potential employees and play a pivotal role in the lives of veterans looking to take the next step in their careers.

“PAVE events are a rich environment for a job opportunity,” said Leon Mallery, Air Force veteran and PAVE participant that secured a job as a result of a PAVE event. “There are employers eager to spend one-on-one time with you and see if there’s a way you can fit into their organization.”

For more information on how veterans, spouses, caregivers, and employers can join the PAVE program and participate in upcoming Employment Events click here. For additional details on the event in Tampa, click here.

Upcoming Event Times and Locations:
• February 7, 2018 – Tampa, Florida
• April 11, 2018 – New York, New York
• July 11, 2018 – Nashville, Tennessee
• October 17, 2018 – San Diego, California
• February 13, 2019 – Seattle, Washington

About PAVE:
PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) provides vocational counseling and job placement assistance to veterans, spouses and caregivers across the country. Our unique, no-cost program offers assistance with a variety of customized job search strategies that position our clients for success. Through the generous support of both private and public partnerships, the PAVE program strives to place at least one veteran, caregiver or spouse every day.

PAVE also provides on-going support to employer partners who want to leverage the unique training and skills of our nation’s veteran workforce. By partnering with PAVE, employers will recognize why hiring veterans is good for their bottom line. PAVE strives to find the best jobs for veterans and the best veterans for jobs.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For over 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation, and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 74 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Ten questions to never, ever, ask at a job interview

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Career Tips

You must bring questions with you to every job interview.

Here are three good questions to ask your interviewer:

1. How does this position contribute to the department’s — and the company’s — success?

2. What will a successful first year in this job look like? What will your new hire accomplish?

3. Who are the internal and external customers of the person in this job, and what do those customers want?

You will come up with more questions to ask as you research the company you’re going to be interviewing with. You’ll develop questions about the position, the company’s goals, the manager’s communications style and much more. New questions will pop into your mind during the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — it’s the best thing a candidate can do!

At the same time, there are certain questions never, ever to ask at a job interview. Ten of them are listed below.

1. What does your company do?

You can say, “I know Acme Explosives manufactures stick dynamite for the coyote market — but I’d love to hear your perspective on the organization and its mission.”

You can’t show up at a job interview not knowing what the company does. That’s what the internet is for!

2. Do you have any other positions available, apart from this one?

Right now, you’re sitting in an interview talking about a specific job. Don’t ask about other positions unless the interviewer says, “I don’t think you’re a good fit for this job.”

If you feel that the job you’re discussing is not a good fit for you, you can say so — but until you’ve reached that point, keep the conversation on topic and remember that no one can force you to take a job if you don’t want to.

If they make you an offer and it doesn’t excite you, you can inquire about other available positions then. Cross that bridge later!

3. Which bus comes to your building from the east side of the city?

It’s up to you to figure out public transportation. Every public transit authority has online maps and schedules. It’s not the interviewer’s job to know every bus and train route, and this type of low-altitude question doesn’t brand you as a professional.

4. Do you use ABC Software here?

If they care about your proficiency with a particular software program, they will ask you. If you ask whether they use ABC Software and they don’t, you’ll be hanging in the breeze. The interviewer will say, “No, we use XYZ Software — are you proficient in that?” and you’ll have to say, “Nope.”

There’s no advantage to asking, “What kind of software do you use here?” in the early stages of your interview process.

5. Do you drug test applicants?

This is the biggest red-flag question you can ask. Even if you’re just asking out of curiosity or because you eat a poppy-seed bagel every day and you’re worried about the poppy seeds messing up your drug test results, don’t ask the question!

If they drug-test applicants, they will tell you that when it’s time for you to take the drug test.

Cut back on the poppy seed bagels, just in case.

6. Are you interviewing other people for the job?

You can safely assume they’re interviewing other people. Also, what difference does it make? If it’s the right job for you at this moment in time, they’ll make you an offer, and you’ll accept.

Don’t worry about other candidates they may be considering. Focus on yourself!

7. If I don’t get the offer this time, how long do I have to wait to re-apply?

I include this question on our list of “Don’t Ask” interview questions because I have heard it from applicants’ lips so many times.

Everyone can understand how nerve-wracking the job search process can be. Don’t make it worse by asking your interviewer what to do if you don’t get the job!

8. Are you going to talk to my former employer?

Any employer who’s considering hiring you is going to conduct some type of employment verification process. That process works through your former employer’s HR department.

Unless you listed your former manager as one of your references, prospective employers are very unlikely to talk to your old boss (or even to learn your former boss’s name).

Don’t put questions about your relationship with your ex-boss in their minds by asking, “Are you going to talk to my former employer?”

9. Does your company offer tuition reimbursement? How much is the deductible on your dental plan? How many vacation days will I accrue in the first three months? Does your health plan cover contact lenses?

It is a bad use of your precious face-to-face interview time to ask questions about the specifics of the company’s benefit plans. Ask for a copy of the health care program documents and read them when you get home.

You have a real person who works for the company in front of you — pick their brain about the work, the mission, the challenges, the opportunity and the culture.

Don’t turn your poor interviewer into a walking, talking employee benefits encyclopedia!

10. How long is your new employee probation period?

This is another unnecessary and potentially alarming question for a job applicant to ask at an interview.

You can ask, “What is the waiting period for health benefits?” or, “What is your 401(k) eligibility schedule?” but don’t ask about the probationary period specifically.

If you do, it sounds like you’re anxious about making it through your probationary period. In reality, the probationary period for newcomers isn’t all that significant unless you work in a unionized environment that gives workers more protection after they’ve finished probation.

For everybody else, a major slip-up on Day 100 of your employment will outweigh the fact that you’ve completed your 90-day probation. Don’t give your possible next boss reason to wonder,”Why does this person care so much about the probationary period?”

Ask for a copy of the company’s handbook instead of asking this question — and read it cover to cover!

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Academy of United States Veterans Awards tiag® Steve Vincent with 2018 Honorary VETTY

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WASHINGTON, D.C., January, 2018 – At the Third Annual VETTYS Awards on January 20, 2018, Steven (“Steve”) D. Vincent was awarded an Honorary VETTY by The Academy of United States Veterans (AUSV).

Celebrating the remarkable work of individuals and organizations who demonstrate consistent, extraordinary quality of public service, exemplary advocacy efforts and exceptional service to the veteran community, the VETTY Awards is an annual event celebrating awards conferred by the Academy’s voting members.

At this star-studded event emceed by CNN Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C., Vincent — who serves as senior business development manager at tiag® (The Informatics Applications Group, Inc.) — was recognized for his selfless service and relentless dedication to veterans.

Introduced by AUSV VETTYS award presenters actress Anne Heche and mixed martial artist Colton T. Smith, Vincent was celebrated as a stalwart advocate of veterans and lauded for his ongoing efforts to help active-duty military, veterans and employers overcome obstacles intrinsic in military-to-civilian workforce transitions.

Inspired by his prior 25-year U.S. Navy career and a personal sense of duty to empower the successful integration of veterans into the civilian workforce, Vincent reflected in his acceptance speech that, “Like any of my successes on active duty, this award is the result of a team rather than individual effort. I am privileged to work for an employer that values and supports veterans. And I would not be successful were it not for a great team of fellow veterans at a wide range of companies and government agencies working together to help those in transition.”

In his endeavors to help active-duty military, veterans and Steve Vincent militaryemployers overcome obstacles intrinsic in military-to-civilian workforce transitions, Vincent mentors veterans, teaching them effective, successful ways to articulate their value proposition to potential civilian employers. Likewise, Vincent educates employers and organizations on effective ways to improve their approach and ability to attract, hire and retain veterans.
“Ever since Steve joined us directly from his own military transition in 2012, we have wholeheartedly supported his tireless efforts to improve the lives of veterans,” says tiag President and Chief Operating Officer Neil Lampton, noting that one in every four employees is a veteran at tiag. “We applaud Steve’s immense contributions to veterans, evidenced by this prestigious award.”

About tiag®
Headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area and on the West Coast, tiag (The Informatics Applications Group, Inc.), is an innovative management consulting and technology services firm esteemed for providing superior technology solutions that transform business and advance critical missions. tiag takes pride in its people, achievements, processes and successes in leading initiatives to support our government and commercial clients. tiag’s extensive services portfolio delivers focused expertise and support ranging from complex, enterprise-wide solutions to stand-alone custom projects. Please explore our service offerings at tiag.net and connect with us to discover how we provide tremendous value beyond the scope of work.

U.S. Department of Labor Launches HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration

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Medallions

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the launch of the HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration – an effort that will recognize up to 300 employers for their investments in recruiting, employing, and retaining our nation’s veterans.

The program demonstration will raise awareness of the HIRE Vets Medallion Program, which kicks off in 2019. The program utilizes the requirements of the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 (HIRE Vets Act) signed by President Trump in May 2017 to determine awardees. The program will recognize large, medium, and small employers at two levels, platinum or gold, depending on the criteria they meet.

The demonstration will use the same criteria as the full HIRE Vets Medallion Program and enable more employers to prepare to successfully complete the medallion award application for the full implementation of the program in 2019.

Program demonstration applications will be available on Jan. 31, 2018, online at www.hirevets.gov. The demonstration has no application fee and is limited to the first 300 applications across all categories (large, medium, and small employers). Any employer with at least one employee on staff is eligible to apply. Employers recognized in the 2018 Program Demonstration will also be eligible to apply for the 2019 Program.

“Military service develops leadership skills, technical expertise, and problem-solving capabilities—all in demand by America’s companies,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “The HIRE Vets Medallion Program provides a tremendous opportunity for employers to recruit talented veterans and demonstrate support for those who have sacrificed so much for their country.”

In November 2017, the Department announced its Final Rule for the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act. The HIRE Vets Medallion has a rigorous criterion that recognizes employers’ commitment to veteran careers, including hiring, retention, and long-term development. The award signals to veterans that an employer is committed to and supports veteran careers.

Employers seeking further information should visit www.HIREVets.gov for updates, or contact HIREVETS@dol.gov.

# # #

United We Stand: Recognizing Black History Month

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henry johnson

In the early pre-dawn hours of May 14, 1918, Army Pvt. Henry Johnson, part of the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, took part in a five-man patrol to defend against enemy ambushes in the Argonne Forest in France.

At 2:30 a.m., 24 German soldiers attacked the patrol’s position. Johnson defended his comrades by throwing all the grenades he could find at the enemy and then fired his own weapon until it jammed. When the enemy soldiers swarmed the trench Johnson was defending, he fought them off with the butt of his rifle and then his bare hands.

Johnson, wounded 21 times, sent the Germans into retreat. This encounter became known as “The Battle of Henry Johnson” and was reported in national newspapers in the United States later in the year.

France subsequently awarded Johnson the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (War Cross with Palm), France’s highest award for valor. And in a memo later that same month, Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, called Johnson’s actions “a notable instance of bravery,” and Johnson was promoted to sergeant.

But after the war, Johnson was nearly completely disabled due to his wounds. Despite his noted heroics, he and other black soldiers were denied medical care and disability pay. He would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on June 2, 2015, but the recognition came far too late. Johnson died in poverty at 32 years old, according to the Smithsonian and a study released by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

As we celebrate Black History Month, the EJI offers a historical and detailed account of the injustices black veterans like Johnson endured in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including instances of violence and abuse, inequality of military pay and denial of earned veterans benefits.

During World War I, more than 350,000 African Americans served in segregated units. When World War II erupted, more than a million were drafted or volunteered to serve. The Korean War saw the decommissioning of some, though not all, segregated units, despite a 1948 executive order to integrate the military. And after entering the Vietnam War, America saw the highest proportion of black service members—but also casualty rates as high as 25 percent.

In spite of African Americans’ proud military heritage predating the Revolutionary War, the EJI study sheds light on the treatment of black veterans after service.

“It’s important that, as individuals and veterans, we show that the history of how our country treated minority veterans in the past is not a pleasant one,” said DAV (Disabled American Veterans) National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster, whose father was a Buffalo Soldier. “We should never forget the painful lessons this teaches. DAV knows the veteran community is made stronger by diversity, and we will continue our mission of advocacy for all veterans.”

The entire EJI report can be found at eji.org/reports/online.

Source:  Dav.org

VA career tips: 3 resolutions for the New Year

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Career Tips

Now is a great time to set some career goals for the New Year. To get started, take a look at these tips to help make the most of 2018 and years to come.

Develop a new skill
Continuous growth is essential to success, so you should work to develop new skills as often as possible. Not only will this increase your value as an employee, it’ll also open doors to more opportunities. These are some of the reasons why VA provides education support and other assistance that helps team members build on their talents and move forward in their careers.

Focus on networking
From social media sites to industry events, there are many ways to connect with people in your profession. Pursue these avenues regularly, as they can lead to useful knowledge, job referrals and more.

Maintain a healthy work-life balance
Your career is important, but you should always make time for your personal life and take good care of yourself. At VA, we offer flexible scheduling, generous paid time off and other benefits that help employees keep everything in balance. It’s all part of being at our absolute best for our patients.

Interested in joining our team? Explore our current opportunities and apply today.

Job seeking tips from a veteran working at the Job seeking tips from a veteran working at the VA

Darren Sherrard, VA’s Associate Director of Healthcare Recruitment and Marketing, knows a thing or two about finding a fulfilling career. And as a Veteran, he has a unique perspective on the matter. So to help you with your search, we’re highlighting some job-seeking tips he shared in his two-part series on job-seeking.

Build your network
After retiring from the military, Darren started networking with recruiters and other professionals associated with his desired line of work. From career fairs to interviews, he did whatever he could to get his name and qualifications out there. And along the way, he would assess how well he was doing and identify ways he could do better next time. Today, he continues to expand his network with new contacts, mentors, leaders and even past co-workers, keeping up with them on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Further your education
Continued education can help you set yourself apart from other candidates with comparable experience. That’s why Darren obtained a Bachelor’s degree and developed a “hunger for life-long learning.” He’s always studying and researching to stay up on best practices and industry trends. And this commitment to continuous self-improvement has undoubtedly played an integral part in his success.

Find your fit
Another key to Darren’s success is he loves what he does. When looking for open positions, he focused on those most suited for his talents, experience, education, goals, interests and preferences – and he suggests you do the same. That means reading job descriptions in their entirety and taking a close look at corporate career sites. You should also consider using resources like Glassdoor.com, which can help you gain a better understanding of a company’s culture. The more you know, the better.

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SEAL-Tested, NASA-Approved—Harvard Medical School grad to depart residency for astronaut training

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Jonny Kim

By Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer

Jonny Kim was in the grocery store when the call came: He would have to exchange his emergency room scrubs for a space suit.

“I was happy, jubilated, excited—all these emotions,” Kim said. “My wife was there. I told her and she was jumping up and down in the grocery store. So we looked silly. I was about to pay for the food.”

Kim, a 2016 Harvard Medical School (HMS) graduate, was one of a dozen candidates picked by NASA in June for its next astronaut class. A year into a four-year residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Kim will put his medical career on hold so he can learn to fly a plane, spacewalk, operate the International Space Station’s robotic arm, and master other skills NASA considers essential.

This isn’t the first time Kim has exchanged one high-pressure career for another. Before going on inactive reserve to pursue his medical training, he was a Navy SEAL with more than 100 combat missions under his belt. His military honors include a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.

“Why wouldn’t NASA want him?” said David Brown, head of MGH’s Department of Emergency Medicine and MGH Trustees Professor of Emergency Medicine at HMS. “We wanted him. Harvard Medical School wanted him. Everyone wanted him.”

Kim, 33, has come a long way from the shyness and small dreams of his Los Angeles youth. Buffeted by family instability and a difficult time at school, he didn’t see in himself the qualities he admired in others: the courage of the astronauts whose posters adorned his walls, the quiet professionalism and odds-defying determination of the Special Forces. As high school graduation neared, it seemed only a radical step could get him off the road to nowhere. So he enlisted in the Navy and asked to become a member of one of its elite SEAL teams. The recruiter could promise only the chance to try. For Kim that was enough.

“I didn’t like the person I was growing up to become,” he said. “I needed to find myself and my identity. And for me, getting out of my comfort zone, getting away from the people I grew up with, and finding adventure, that was my odyssey, and it was the best decision I ever made.”

SEAL training was just as tough as advertised, Kim said. He considered quitting during “hell week,” a five-day stretch of near continuous training in cold, wet conditions.

“They let us sleep for a couple of hours in nice sleeping bags, one of only two naps you get in five days of training,” Kim said. “And when you’re snuggled up in this warm sleeping bag and they wake you up and immediately make you go in the frigid ocean, it was the closest I ever came to quitting. I had that taste of comfort, and then it was taken away from you. The cold was magnified because your body’s so broken. When you’re exercising, you can push through the pain. When you’re cold, you’re just by yourself.”

Once past the initial phase, Kim had additional training that prepared him for service as a navigator, sniper, point man, and combat medic. Combat was inevitably very different from what he envisioned as a high school recruit, and Kim said he still feels a duty to close friends killed in fighting.

“I don’t watch a lot of war films and documentaries anymore,” he said. “Losing a lot of good friends galvanized me and made a lot of my remaining teammates make sure we made our lives worthwhile. I still, to this day, every day, think of all the good people who didn’t get a chance to come home. I try to make up for the lives and positive [impact] they would have had if they were alive.”

Kim traces his interest in becoming a doctor to a day in 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq, when he was serving as a medic and two close friends were shot. Both eventually died. Kim treated one in the field.

“He had a pretty grave wound to the face,” Kim said. “It was one of the worst feelings of helplessness. There wasn’t much I could do, just make sure his bleeding wasn’t obstructing his airway, making sure he was positioned well. He needed a surgeon. He needed a physician and I did eventually get him to one, but … that feeling of helplessness was very profound for me.”

The doctors and nurses who worked on his friend made a lasting impression on Kim. Three years later, in 2009, having joined a Navy program through which enlisted personnel can be commissioned as officers, he left for undergraduate studies at the University of San Diego, with the intention of ultimately going to medical school.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in math in three years—the Navy required full course loads during the academic year plus summer school—and then, in 2012, arrived at Harvard Medical School.

Among the people he met early in his HMS career was Assistant Professor of Neurobiology David Cardozo, associate dean for basic graduate studies, who served in the Royal Canadian Navy and acts as an informal mentor for veterans on campus. The Medical School’s community of veterans is small, numbering about 20 at any one time. Students with special operations backgrounds are even fewer. Though Kim was one of the School’s most decorated veterans, Cardozo was struck by how modest he was.

“He’s the steadiest person you could imagine,” Cardozo said. “He’s very gifted and he has a depth of character that’s unequaled. He did wonderfully here.”

During his third year at HMS, Kim entered a mentoring program and met Brown, who heads the hospital’s Emergency Department. After graduating, Kim decided to specialize in emergency medicine and joined the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency, a cooperative program between MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Kim wasn’t expecting to go to astronaut school—not yet, at least. He joined more than 18,000 other applicants for the NASA class—recruited every four years—as a first step, hoping to improve his chances in the next selection process, once his medical training was complete.

“So we were all surprised and thrilled when he was selected, but not really all that surprised,” Brown said. “He’s just a remarkable young man … incredibly committed, absolutely unafraid.”

Kim said he’s ready for whatever NASA asks. Due in Houston in late August, he recently left the residency program to prepare for the move with his wife and children.

“I’m going to be a student at the bottom of another totem pole trying to learn as much information as possible,” he said. “I’m excited for the adventure. I think it’ll be another occupation where I say, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid for doing this.’”

Photo credit: Rose Lincoln/Harvard University

 

New year, new career: VA’s tips to help you prepare

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For many people, the first quarter of the New Year is a popular time to transition into a new job. That’s why, as 2017 draws to a close, it’s a good idea to invest some time polishing your resume or revising your long-term goals. VA has a few tips to help you be as prepared as possible for any career opportunities that may come your way in 2018.

Refresh your social media profiles
Make sure your online presence is updated and aligned with your current career objectives. Update your profile photos and spruce up any headlines or bios to clearly express your personal brand.

Update your resume
Get a head start on perfecting your resume, instead of waiting until it’s needed and then making rushed edits. Thoughtfully adjust your resume to highlight skills and experience that are relevant to your future goals and cast you in a positive light.

Plan for your future
Where do you want to see yourself in 2018? The holiday season is a great time to reflect on what’s most important to you and to redefine your career priorities accordingly. Get proactive and outline steps to reach your target.

Boost your digital skills
Digital tools are getting increasingly sophisticated—in order to stay competitive, it’s crucial that your data proficiency grows as the technology does. Developing these skills will help improve your efficiency in all areas of business.

Connect with people
This season is the perfect time to strengthen your relationships and make an effort to meet new people. Prepare a brief description of your qualifications and aspirations for any social events and other networking opportunities.

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