Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the conference call entitled Tapping a New Resource: Veterans with Disabilities. At this time all participants will be in a listen-only mode and later we will conduct a question and answer session. At that time if you would like to ask a question, you may do so by pressing the one on your touch tone phone. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded today February 20. I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Peter Berg. Please go ahead sir.
Thank you very much and welcome everyone to our February session in the Audio Conference Series. The ADA Audio Conference is a collaborative effort of the 10 regional DBTAC ADA centers. For those of you new to us, DBTAC - Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers, we are a federally funded group of centers providing technical assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal disability laws. Today''s session is being recorded. An audio archive as well as the written transcript can be found on the ADA Audio home page which is www.ada-audio.org. You can find past sessions on that website as well. Last month, we had Tyler Matney from EARN, the Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network joined us and talked about recruiting employees with disabilities. Today, we are going to spend our time looking at, focusing on a specific group of individuals with disabilities, that being veterans with disabilities. We are very fortunate to have a collaboration, a group of speakers with us today who are going to bring a whole host of information for individuals from employers, who are looking to find and hire individuals with disabilities, particularly veterans with disabilities. Our first presenter today will be one Billy Wright who is with the Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network. He is the Program Director of Veterans Initiative. This program is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, ODEP, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. Billy will talk more about his specific program and about the EARN program. After Billy is done, we will be joined by Alicia Ross, she is the Program Director with the Coalition to Salute American Heroes. She is filling in for Jane Ivey who was originally going to be speaking with us. In her role with the Coalition, she assists veterans, service members with disabilities and their families and transitioning into gainful employment, and also works on recruiting employers who are looking to hire veterans with disabilities. And then finally, we will have Robert Roundtree who is the Employment Service Supervisor with the Vocational Rehabilitation Service Network within the VA. He supervises employment services within the Vocational and Rehabilitation and Employment Services which is the acronym VR&E within the VA. Following their presentations we will open it up to all of you and allow you to ask questions and tap the knowledge of the individuals that are with us today. I have already spoken way too much. At this point I will turn it over to Billy. Go ahead, Billy.
Good afternoon to everyone. Hiring disabled vets involves more than simply an interest. First, I would like to thank Robin and Mr. Berg for inviting us over to this conference. I can definitely say, initially, having an interest, speaking as, I am any disabled vet, the impact you are making on veterans lives, the decision by having an interest really is going to open up door for a lot of veterans that are serving in the Gulf, a lot of the veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and just the fact that I was offered a job. It was more than just a job. It was actually a life for me. I just want to thank all of the employers out there that are participating in today''s conference for taking an interest. Your decision to do this is really going to impact someone''s life. I just wanted to share that with you initially, at the beginning. We can move on to the first slide. Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network-EARN is the nations premier provider of free disability consulting and candidate sourcing services. EARN has been around for about seven years now and actually started in the year 2000. When it initially started out with connecting employers with service providers that have qualified candidates with disabilities. It was started by the Office of Disability Employment Policy by the Department of Labor. They had a lot of employers that actually approached them. They were interested in hiring hire job-seekers with disabilities but they did not know where to find them. ODEP the Office of Disability Employment Policy, that is when EARN actually initiated its services by connecting these employers to employment service providers that had qualified candidates with disabilities, so we have been doing this for a while, seven, eight years now. We understand employers. We know exactly what you are looking for, and EARN is very easy. You just sign up. You do not have to attend any meetings or anything. We outreach and we contact colleges, universities, one stops, state vocational rehab agencies, and private, non-profit, any organizations that actually is working with job-seekers with disabilities and assisting them with gaining employment. We can actually link you to those providers and help you recruit candidates. EARN Veterans Initiatives actually started two years ago. We have had a lot of returning soldiers coming back injured from Iraq and Afghanistan. We wanted to do more to reach out and understand that the veterans'' population is a population that also has very much qualified candidates with disabilities. They would be a great asset for employers with their military background. EARN started up with Veterans Initiatives in an effort to link employers with veteran Services organizations that have qualified vets with disabilities. That is how EARN got started. We are single point resource to assist employers in preparation, awareness and education and candidate recruitment. Once again, we are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. There is no cost to you. We are funded and we are a service at no cost. We can move onto the next slide. EARN works for you. We are actually an employer service. We work for the employer. We provide job matching services, consultative services and also tool and resources within a full range of disability employment issues. We do a lot of referrals to assist our employers. We have certain calls that we may refer them to Disability Business and Technical Assistance Centers and also the Job Accommodation Network which is our sister company under the Department of Labor. Hiring veterans with service connected disabilities. We can move onto the next slide. We can talk about the benefits of hiring a veteran. Definitely, if you visit the www.hirevetsfirst.gov, it is the Presidents National Hire Veterans Committee website where they get the top 10 reasons on why employers should hire veterans. Veterans bring a lot of the soft skills that employers are looking for with leadership and dedication. They show up to work on time and they are accountable. A lot of employers like veterans because they bring those soft skills. It is very easy to teach the hard skills, once you got them locked in. In lot of employers do like the soft skills that veterans bring to the workplace. We also have found under military findings that with veterans, there is a high correlation between the skills veterans obtain in service and those desired by employers in manufacturing and sales. Definitely, a lot of veterans have a very cordial way of communicating as far as selling a project, if it something that they believed in, they have a very cordial style about presenting, and they are very good at problem-solving as well. The veterans out-scored their non-veterans counterparts in measurements of traits corresponding to sales position requirements. Let''s move onto the next slide. Benefits of hiring vets. Just a continuation of that. A lot of veterans with disabilities have completed vocational rehab and employment programs. They have been through the program, and Bob Roundtree would be happy to share more about that. He is the supervisor for the veteran employment specialist that are in the VRE program. Once again, getting back to the soft skills of veterans with disabilities and all veterans, they are mature, motivated and disciplined workers. You do not find them complaining much. They just know that there is a mission and you have to get the job done. So once again, I cant say it enough, but they are a great asset in the labor pool. We are tapping into and looking over. With EARN, we actually pre-screened candidates, veterans with disabilities to meet your specific employment needs. So when we get those job duties from you, when we get the job analysis, we talk with the counselors that are with VRE, vet centers, colleges, universities, employment and training, all of the veteran services organizations, we actually, those that are enrolled and are receiving assistance from veterans services organizations, we actually talk with their counselors, make sure that everything matches up before we forward that resume to you. That is a part of this pre-screening that we do. Once again, you are getting a candidate that is proven to be reliable and dependable and able to perform in stressful situation in which we all have done that whether be through training out in the field or in combat situations. And we are dedicated team players as well. Okay. We are going to move onto the next slide. EARN Veterans Initiatives. There is another thing that we have been doing with a lot of our employers over the past seven years. Not only do we work closely with employers, we also worked closely with the providers. For employers, if you are having job fairs, EARN has a nationwide network of veterans services organizations that we can actually forward your jobs information to conferences, workshops, anything that you are having. We would be happy to post that on our website and disseminate that information to veterans services organizations that are in your area or nationwide. So we do have that capability. Once again, we do recruit, screen and refer veterans ranging from entry-level to skilled professionals. So, regardless of what type of jobs you are trying to fill, we can reach out to veterans services organizations to help you find those who are qualified vets, from entry level to highly skilled positions. We can also assist you with establishing or really connecting you with the veterans services organizations that have worked closely with employers that may be in your area with establishing internships and mentoring programs for veterans with disabilities. There are a lot of things that we can assist you with. If you have a soldier that has returned from Iraq or Afghanistan and they match the skills that you are looking for and you want to give them an opportunity, we can assist you with just tips, the things that you can do to assist you with establishing a mentoring program or how to manage that returning injured soldier. As far as using strategic thinking and understanding that each returning soldier is an individual. What works for one, may not work for all. You have to take the time to really understand their behavior and understand it and remember that their makeup is basically made up of everything that they stand for, is based on their time served in the military. You can maintain an open relationship and collaboration and let them know that no one is perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses, just like you would with any other employee. Also, to communicate with the veterans with disabilities that are returning injured soldiers to make sure that their lower level needs are met, and they may have various kinds of needs. It is a very simple, certainly the lower level needs may just be salary, working conditions, accommodations, by adjusting these basic needs, you increase the satisfaction and, basically that leads to a happy worker that is motivated, just the fact that they know that and someone is interested in their working conditions and make an accommodation, and those things that are necessary to put them on a playing field that is even with everyone else. It might even come down to tips on how to praise and give evaluation through motivation and certain methods of assessing performance. We can assist you with that. We always encourage contact. You want to always be able to build a rapport despite a little bit of chat and small talk. Asked about the accommodations, just follow up. How is everything going? Those types of things are important. Those are the types of things that we can do to assist employers. They may not know exactly how to go about working with a returning injured soldier. A lot of them are very, very young between the ages of 20 and 24. They are old enough to fight for their country but not old enough to take a drink. I have had a chance to meet with a lot of them, its just amazing. I have been over at the Naval Hospital. And a lot of them just want a chance, they want an opportunity. I met a Marine that was standing at the front desk just asking people when they came through the front door if they could to show them around. I can assist you to where you are going. They are very eager to get back in it. It is very important that they find something to do after receiving a medical discharge and feel like they are part of life again. A lot of time that I was at home I felt like a zero before I was able to get a job. I was not in the mainstream. These things are very important to note that the impact you are making and in return you are getting a good qualified candidate. They can and will do the job. They have been trained that way. Let''s move on to the next slide. Gaining access to the veteran labor pull. Once again, EARN, Veterans Initiatives started a two years ago. We are a component of EARN and we serve all job-seekers with disabilities. So employers out there, if you are still looking, definitely, you can contact EARN, not just for veterans with disabilities but all job-seekers of disabilities. I just want to reiterate on that, that EARN, Veterans Initiatives is a component of EARN. I work strictly with the veterans community. We can connect you with the veterans affairs. That is Bob Roundtree here, the vet application rehab, employment services otherwise known as VRE for short. We connect employers at the vets centers and job and family services. We also connect employers with Veterans National Advocacy organizations such as the PVA and DAV. We will also be able to connect you with community-based health care organizations, the DOLs State Veterans Employment Services, if you are looking to hire homeless, create opportunities for homeless veterans, we are linked into the veterans services organizations that are under the Homeless Veterans Integration program and incarcerated vets that are transitioning, transition assistance through the Transition Assistance Program and DTAP - Disability Transition Assistance Program and a real lifelines and also, the Coalition to Salute Americas Heroes where Alicia is the Program Manager for, nonprofits and plenty of other organizations that are out there. Definitely, if you are looking to tap in, we can connect you with those organizations with just one contact. We will disseminate your job posting nationwide or anywhere up to 50 miles or up to 100 miles actually, from where you are located. Next, I am going to introduce Alicia Ross. She is the Program Manager for the Coalition to Salute Americas Heroes. She will be able to share with you more about what her organization does. We can take it from there.
Thank you, Billy. I want to definitely piggyback on what Billy said, thanking all the employers that are out there, who actually listen and on this conference and really see if you want to, and hopefully you will want to assist our veterans in finding gainful employment experiences. Like Billy said my name is Alicia Ross, and I am the Program Manager for Coalition to Salute Americas Heroes. I am going to go ahead and start with my slides. The Collision to Salute Americas Heroes is a non-profit organization established in January of 2004. Our mission is to provide a meaningful way for individuals, corporations and others to help wounded and disabled veterans from the War on Terror, as well as all supporting and transitioning service members and their families and care givers to find gainful employment. Now with that said, the Coalition does have several missions that we do provide. A lot of organizations and people may know the Coalition because of the emergency financial assistance that we provide. That is a part of our mission. However, our employment goals are to help all transitioning, and that service members who are disabled, service members who not disabled, as well as any veterans as well with finding gainful employment. Next slide, please. Our key objectives. Our office is on-site at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And on-site, our primary focus is to assist Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, service members and their families, including spouses and caregivers, achieve employment objectives. And what that means is that like Billy said we help service members who are transitioning that need employment to find that employment. If that means that that service member or that family member or caregiver is trying to get into an industry an arena of field that they have never gone into before, we help them to transition into that, if that means getting additional education, if that means getting additional certification, we assist with that. We also increased the range of private sector employment opportunities for veterans. That means doing initiatives like what we are doing today, going out to employers who are looking to hire veterans and actually letting them know who we are, what we do and how you guys can help. Next slide, please. The Coalition program. Our candidates preparation, which is basically where I would help a candidate to come into the office and basically see what their employment needs are. Another program is our job shadowing program. Some employers are looking to get into hiring vets but may be a little bit leery. This is a program that a lot of those kinds of employers fit into a very well. The job shadowing programs basically is a way for employers to host a service member, a family member or a caregiver for a set amount of time. It is normally a day for that person to come in and see what a person in that field is doing, what kind of training they need, what kind of attributes they should bring to the table, that kind of thing. It is no obligation to the employer to hire that person, but it is just an experience for that person to actually see what they need to do to prepare themselves to actually get into a position. Our next program is our E-learning. It is basically a web-based training that service members have access to through the Coalition. Now through SkillSoft service, that Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force service members have access to it. However, when they become veterans, they do not have access to that any longer. Through the Coalition, we have linked with the E-learning community and have been able to provide that service to service members. Some of that training can definitely be used toward college. Some of it is certification that they can use toward getting a job in the private sector as well as the federal sector. The next program is the candidate recruitment assistance. That is basically like Billy said, with his program is veterans supported career fairs. We help to get service members and their families to those types of programs. Next slide, please. Candidate preparation. Candidate preparation is a case by case in-depth career assessment with a career trained counselor. That is where a service member, or a family member or a caregiver, will come into my office and we will do an assessment of skills as well as training to see what they can do, what they have done before and where they really would fit in into well in the future. Assistance and exploring education employment options as potential career path. It is basically the same thing. Development of job search strategies. So we will basically sit down and say you need to go to this type of website. You are looking in accounting, you need to look at this type of website, this agency for that type of employment. Interviewing skills, this is a big thing that a lot of service members are really in need of. Because a lot of service members come into the military and they have been in the military for a number of years, over 10 years. A lot of them think that in the private sector, because they have all of those years of military experience as well as some education that they are very marketable. I am not saying at all that they are not marketable, however there is a way that you have to go into the private sector, and we help to transition them that way with the interviewing skills. Connection to local employment markets and accommodation resources. Tailored career exploration to service members. We are an advocate for the service members. Each and every service member that comes into my office, the career search that I do is specifically for that service member. So if I have a service member that comes into my office and is looking to go into sales and I have no employers in my bank that are in the sales arena, I will go out and explore those opportunities for that service member specifically. Next slide, please. Our next program is the job shadowing and mentoring program. This is where we connect veterans and employers. Like I said before it is an on-site experience with a career professional in which an industry position in which a service member, family member or a caregiver wants to explore. It helps the service member to gain insight through one-on-one mentoring opportunities. Next slide, please. It also helps them to explore possible career paths. A lot of service members are unaware of what is out there. And even though there might be an organization, there are a lot of infrastructure jobs that service members can do within those organizations that they are not aware just because they hear the name of the organization. It is our job that there is more to McDonald''s then just food service. There is also human resources, there is also accounting, there is also a number of things that they do within that organization. It also helps them to learn firsthand about that industry. It also helps them to target their skills for improvement. By talking with the career professional and really getting inside from them regarding that. It demonstrates the skills to employers. So even though we say that it is not an opportunity for service members to actually get a job, we do not say that because you of going into a job shadowing program that you have to hire this person. However, if you get into a job shadowing opportunity and the skills that that service member has fit with that organization, great, even better to actually higher them. But it is no obligation on our part to actually higher that service member. We also assist with translating and matching military skills do employer needs. Next slide, please. E-learning. Like I said before, we have a partnership which SkillSoft, in which they provide over 1500 online classes for service members to take advantage of. As I stated before service members do have access to that while they are on active duty. However, when they go off of active duty, they no longer have access to that, unless they go through the Coalition for that, or they can pay for it. It is about $500, I believe, per year. It helps with a variety of skills, from business, information technology, desktop skills, accounting, language skills, it is a variety of training classes in their database. Next slide, please. Candidate recruitment assistance. This is assistance that provides potential candidates for employer openings. Assistance with applications, interviewing, as well as we serve as an advocate to provide introduction for that service member. So it is basically opening doors for service members. They might not know that there is an organization out there, but it is actually introducing those opportunities to them and letting them know these are feasible opportunities for them to also check out. Next slide, please. Veterans career fair support. The Coalition has each year, since this last year I will say, the Coalition has connected with a veterans career fair. Last year was with the New York Times. This year, we have a variety of the career fair connections. Basically, we help service members not only at Walter Reed, but throughout the nation to get to those career fairs. So we provide transportation to those career fairs as well as letting them know that the career fares are available in their areas. We service as a liaison or advocate for engaging with service members. As point of contact with employers needing support throughout the process. Next slide, this last slide is contact information for the private sector employment assistance team which is myself and Jane Ivey. Right now, I am the primary POC though for any questions. Again, I would like to thank you all for being here to hear what we have for veterans. And I am going to turn it over to Bob Roundtree.
Thank you. I appreciate it. I appreciate the information on your program because that is the first time I have heard about it myself and I am right here in D.C., so I am looking forward to following up with you about some programs with your organization. There are a lot of great resources there that we need to tap into along with some of our program. I am Bob Roundtree, Supervisor of Employment and Outreach for the VR&E service here in Washington D.C. We are the Central Office for Policy Guidance and Training for our 57 Regional Offices and our 74 Employment Coordinators around the country. That also includes VR&E staff, vocational rehab counselors, support staff and VR&E officers. So our role here is Washington is help with the guidance policy and developing new initiatives and resources for our staff to use in the field to provide services for veterans in employment and rehabilitation. That is why I am here today is working with EARN and Alicia to take a look at other resources that are out there that we can work together on. What I want to do first of all is going to the first slide on, who we are, is that the primary definition you want to think in terms of is that VR&E is simply a program that provides for service connected disabled veterans. I want to make sure that you remember that, if you remember nothing else. Service connected disabled veterans. There are veterans, there are disabled veterans and there are service connected disabled veterans. Under our program, we can only authorized and provide services to veterans who receive service connected compensation. We can provide all services and assistance. We have a wide scope of things we can do. To veterans with service connected disabilities to help them obtain and maintain civil employment or if needed for the severely disabled, help those achieve independence and daily living. We have an independent living program beside our employment programs. We provide a whole range of things that you commonly would think of in vocational rehabilitation, college, technical schools, OJTs, apprenticeship, special training programs at rehab facilities to help the veterans reached civil employment or independent living. In the next slide, let''s talk about some of the programs of services. By the way, I completed this program myself after I returned from Vietnam. The way I got into the program, I was in an Army hospital down in Kansas, Fort Riley. An VFW member came through the wards of the hospital and visited me at my bedside and got my application for vocational rehabilitation. And so when I returned home, I had my contact for VA vocational rehabilitation. The early return and the early outreach and going right into the medical facility was done back in Vietnam as it is done today. Although I must say it is much better today than it was back then. The programs of services though, we can assist service connected disabled veterans to obtain and maintain that suitable employment. We can assist them also achieve their maximum independence in daily living, we can provide educational, vocational counseling. Alicia already described many of the things that she provides, her organization provides. In career counseling we do those things for our service connected disabled veterans. We also have very special programs for children, widows and spouses of veterans who have a permanent and total service connected disability. Some of you may have heard of it, it is called the Chapter 35 Program. We also provide that under VR&E service. Next slide, I am not going to go through all of the things we do, because I think I have already described many of those things. We have such a wide range of scope of services that we can provide. We can almost provide just about anything a veteran needs as long as the person is entitled to the program, there is a clear need, and is it required for them to reach their vocational rehabilitation goals. Although the biggest thrust of our program is hopefully that the veteran will be able at the end of this particular process to re-enter suitable employment. Let''s go to the slide where we talked about some of the other things that we do. Trainings such as on-the-job and non-paid work experience. We were reviewed by the Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Task Force in 2003 / 2004. One of the concerns of the Task Force in reviewing our program was that we did not really do as do much in the area of OJT, apprenticeships and the direct placement. So many of the things that we are trying to change in our program is to move away from just the standard educational college level programs to more OJTs, non paid work experience and what Alicia talked about job shadowing and internships and so forth. So we also provide personal adjustment counseling, we do that in conjunction with private contractors besides our own staff and also with the veterans centers depending on the person and disability and the treatment needs. We also provide for those in independent living, activities of daily living, thats what you may think of in your communities as centers for independent living. We work extensively with centers for independence living. Go to the next slide at the very top, it talks about five tracts to employment models. That Task Force I talked to you about that reviewed our program top to bottom, said we needed to focus more on employment and making sure veterans know up front in the initial counseling process what we do, not that it is just a long-term vocational program. We have what is called five tracks to employment. If you go on our website later on and get a chance to look at this more in depth, if you go to vetsuccess.gov, you can see a whole description of the program with examples, you can even look at the videos on there about the five tracks of employment model. Simply, when a veteran comes into our program, they''d go through an orientation now, they look at five different options based upon their tests, their assessments and their needs and their expressed interests, aptitudes, interests and abilities. We look at re-employment for those who are returning from overseas who want to return to their original employer but may need some modifications or accommodations on the job, we look at re-employment. We would think more in terms of the National Guard or Reservist in that particular category but it may be a person who left on active duty and now is returning. Rapid access to employment. Those are the individuals that are returning but not going back to their original job but need a new position. But they have, based upon what Billy has talked about, they have good transferable skills from the military to the civilian market. We can more directly, rapidly place them into other jobs. We have individuals who because of the severity of their disability and their interest self-employment would be a track or option that they would want to follow. We have a traditional employment through long term that you would normally think in terms of four year colleges, two year colleges, certificates, even masters level of programs depending on the occupational goal. For those more severely impaired, who they are not able to participate in employment at this time, we have independent living programs to help them with their activities of daily living. So within those five tracks, all of the services I described earlier fit. We can go back and forth between the tracks based upon the veterans needs and the level of services they need at that time. Next slide, talks about who qualifies for VR&E. I talked about if you remembered nothing else, remember service connected disabled veterans. These are veterans who had been honorably discharged or other than dishonorable. They have a VA service connected disability rating. In some case, it may be a disability rating from the military because they have gone out on military disability retirement, and that also would count towards our program. They cannot exceed a basic twelve year eligibility period except for some very special circumstances. So if the service connected disabled veteran receive a compensation letter from us today, generally, the scope of services would fall within that 12 year period except for some exceptions. They can generally get into our program within six months of separation from active duty. So where Alicia works over at Walter Reed, many of the wounded and injured service members there, usually within 180 days or six months of their discharge or being medically boarded out of the service, they can file for benefits, they can also file for what is called the Chapter 36 which is our educational counseling component. They can also be able to get in what we call our Coming Home to Work Initiatives which is our early intervention return to work program. But generally always remember, if you remember nothing else, service connected. The veteran is entitled to receive VA compensation and or disability retirement from the military branch and they have a need for vocational rehabilitation. On one of the slides at the very top it says typical veteran profile. I think if you had a chance to look at the information before, the typical veteran profile currently, this is just from 2005, but it talks about the length of military service, the average served anywhere from 4 to 10 years of military service. The most frequent disability that we have an entire range of disability that you would think of, but the most frequent we see is orthopedic. That is not unusual of course for where Alicia works over at Walter Reed. Because when you think of terms there blast injuries, trauma, where its primary orthopedic or neurological or a combination of the two. The average age is interesting, remember we are looking at across 100,000 veterans in this program. 100,000 veterans nation wide on average. Average age male 41, female 37. Now we do have individuals who are 19 years or age, 18 years of age, 22 years of age. And if you look at our numbers specifically at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center and Eisenhower down at Fort Gordon, in other words, the primary medical treatment facilities, that age would go down quite a bit because of the wounded. It is still skewed towards the younger troops that are serving overseas. There are some exceptions to that, with the guard and reservists that are older age, but generally, you would see the active duty individuals coming back to the medical treatment facilities at a younger age. But when you factor in all 100,000, the male 41 years of age and female 37. The average education is high school graduates, now we do see individuals coming to our table and as Alicia would probably see at Walter Reed, less than high school, high school GED, some with bachelors degree, some, I have seen some troops coming in with master''s degrees. It is a wide, wide variation. But on the average, a high school graduate is coming to the table if not a little but higher than that, now in some locations with some prior vocational technical school training. The average disability is 30%, and the participants have two or more dependents. They are married and the disability rating is at least 30% on average. Because of probably trauma, blast injuries, some severe disabilities, we have individuals at a much higher 100% permanent disability ratings. We have some with a little bit less, but on average it is 30% right now. If you look at Alicias case load, she would be at the higher end of the percentages over time in those. We provide a lot of things. As I mentioned earlier, we are trying to do a major change in our program to really concentrate with our partners here on more employment services. We refer to a lot of local jobs resources. And of course some are on the table where we are talking about today that we use. But across the country we use a network of private sector contractors, non-profit agencies, state-based organizations, state governments, other federal agencies to help in placement. We will use just about any resource we can use, to help veterans find the right type of employment opportunities. We do not want to replicate but we want to be able to work together to provide a good career entry point for veterans returning from overseas. We use all kinds of things, we have new job resource labs, we have the vetsuccess.gov website, we run all kinds of trainings around the country and getting involved in new initiatives to create opportunities for jobs for the veterans. Some of the retraining services on the next slide, we talk about, we do not go all the way through, testing, evaluation, we train veterans to prepare for entry level on employment in their field of occupation, whether that is a television repairman, I dont know, do they even repair televisions anymore? Or dental technician? I have trained in my program, and when I was a counselor in the field, I trained doctors, veterinarians and school teachers and chemists, and you name it, its about every occupation we have trained in the past. Because remember, our program is based upon aptitudes, interests and abilities. We are very, very concerned about what the veterans want to do. Where do they want to go in their lives? What type of careers? Is there going to be options for them? Can we help them reach those career goals? We do not dictate to them that they have to march down that particular occupational path. Is it consistent with their aptitudes, interests and abilities? And is there going to be future career opportunities for them? So we will use any resource we can during the placement phase to get them into those career opportunities. As Alicia said, job shadowing, on the job training programs, mentorship, internships, formal training, you name it, distance education, we do all of the same things too. We try to link up those resources to get them job ready. Post Training. Let''s say we place a person over at Lockheed Martin. By the way, we want to thank Lockheed Martin because they have hired a large number of our graduates. We hope to give them an award for all of their hiring for the fiscal year 2006, will be awarded sometime this year 2007. Many of the contractors like Lockheed Martin, if we place a veteran there and they have successfully completed their training, they are hired at Lockheed Martin, we will continue to follow up with the veteran on the job to make sure that they have adjusted to the position, that the employer is satisfied with the skill of the employee and also that the veteran is satisfied with the position and it is consistent with their original occupational goals. And if the employer says there are some special accommodations or assistance that the veterans still needs to retain that job, we will provide whatever we reasonably can, to help them maintain that position or if they are not satisfactory, help them find another suitable position. We follow up on the job and we provide them things, post-placement assistance, we provide them with an employment adjustment allowance for two months of their subsistence. We can provide incentives to employers, provide on the job training funds and additional equipment or tools or technology on the job. We can provide those things to help the veteran maintain the same productivity as other non-veterans in that position. Now beyond all of that vocational thrust, issues, and services, we provide additional things that you would normally think of in the VA, medical, dental, optical and mental health treatment. Normally it is part of any veterans rehabilitation plan because they usually have ongoing medical care. And a large percentage of them receive their care at either a VA facility or somewhere where we authorize care outside of the VA. We also provide individual case management to the veteran and to the employer to help them better reach the reasonable accommodation and satisfaction on the job, whether we do it ourselves at the VA all of our 900 counselors or we then contracted it out to private or non-profit agencies to help us with case management. So we provide those services. I think I put it in the information in some of the Power points, some examples of the jobs and the types of jobs that we have. But let me tell you something that is probably more important, the slide is not in there but I just ran some new numbers. I think you will find these more and more interesting. We just completed our review about a month ago of our fiscal year 2006 hires. We were able to kind of mine all of that information. To give you an example, we rehabbed about 12,000 veterans, of those 9,000 plus were vocational or employment and 2,000 some plus were independent leaving. So the largest percentages were suitably employed. Let me give you an example of some of these things because I know you guys are out there. And here is some information that you may find interesting. The Federal government last year hired 989 of our graduates and that is the department of the Army, Air Force, Agriculture, whatever, 989. The average monthly salary of $3,419 a month. We have private sector, we have 4,866 private sector jobs a little less than $3,000 a month, with almost $3,000 a month with the average monthly salary. States and local governments hired a little over 1,500 of our graduates around the country, a little less than $2,800 a month for starting wages. The good old VA hired 410, so even within the VA, at our hospitals, our regional offices, hired 410 of our graduates for a little less than $3,000 a month in the starting wages. Here is one that you may not have thought about before. Faith based and community non-profit agencies, now faith based or communities, it doesnt have to be one or the other or could be totally separate, 591 veterans, a little less than $2,600 a month. 591 veterans were hired into faith based or non-profit community-based organizations. That was a very, very interesting number for us. And it shows you some of the ones that I just described to you, a variety of the market segments that we shoot for in employment. Within each ones of those, of course we have breakdowns of which agencies, which private-sector employers and the types of jobs. But we have anywhere from auto-mechanic to undertakers, nurses, doctors, air-traffic controllers, schoolteachers, a large number of schoolteachers, chemists, any occupation that you can think of in the world of work and we have trained and they have been hired somewhere in the economy. So we want to thank all of the employers and also the service providers to help the veterans reach those jobs because I am sure that some of you out there actually work with our veterans and we appreciate that. I will not go through all of these Power point slides because they are just a series of numbers. It talks about our overall types of occupations that we train veterans for. One final figure you may find most interesting because our veterans go through all these services and all these options, which are very good options for occupational training, on the job training, apprenticeships and so forth, it should not surprise you that the largest percentage of our veterans get jobs in the area of professional, technical and managerial. We have very few hamburger flippers or anything like that. They are usually out there in professional, technical and managerial area because they have received formal, on the job training, academic training, institutional training and the placement assistance or certifications to help them get into certain occupations. So that is where we are with that program. I want to let you know that overall, we have approximately as I said earlier we have 100,000 veterans in all case statuses of our program. Give you an example, about 50,000 are in training programs today. About 7,000 are considered job ready in these different occupations and approximately 20,000 are in different counseling phases of the programs. A few others, about 4,000 in independent living programs. We rehabilitate on the average, successfully close rehabilitated cases about 12,000 per year. The overwhelming majority are suitable employment and followed by a smaller percentage of independent living cases. I think that is kind of the overall. One thing I want to mention to you, if you do have questions about our program, please go to the vetsuccess.org website or our toll-free number that is in the handout in Power points. If you are out in the community somewhere and a certain jurisdiction or state, all you have to do is get a hold of the VA Regional Office and asked for the VR&E Officer, and that individual can talk to whether you are in Arkansas or Los Angeles. They can talk to about the vocational rehabilitation employment programs in that state. But if you just want to learn more about our program, go to the website and you can learn a lot about it, take a look at the videos, veterans can apply on-line, and there are all kind of resources there they can also access, and review about our programs and help them look for employment. So I think we want to turn it back over to Billy right now.
Okay. I hope you enjoyed that information. We will actually open up a question and answer session in a few minutes, well actually in a couple of seconds. But we just wanted to make it easy for you. You have contact information for Alicia and Bob. Once again you can contact some of these officers at the VA Regional Offices if you have questions. A lot of times the worst thing you can do is start surfing the web and you look up veterans services organizations and some of that Bob had mentioned earlier there are so many services out there, I mean ranging from substance abuse and to divorce, I mean it will really overwhelm you. We wanted to try to make it real easy for you and just give you contact information and a good resource that you can trust and follow up with and get the correct information. At this time, if you have any questions that you would like to ask, I will be happy to answer them.
Alright, thanks Billy. If the Operator can come back in and remind folks how they can ask questions.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will now begin the question and answer session. If you have a question at this time, we ask that you please press the one on your touch-tone telephone, and we will take the questions in the order that they are received.
While we are waiting for folks to get in line there, and I have a question that was submitted online. I guess this one is for Bob. The questioner wants to know about your contact with employers and whether or not the VR&E is working with employers to identify the skills sets that employers need, and whether VR&E is directing the vets to train and get those skills for those particular positions?
Absolutely. Part of the role that we have here at the national level is I meet with national accounts, the national corporations like Lockheed Martin and Home Depot and Wal-Mart, and you name it. The national corporate is where we meet with and we look at their skill sets and look at information needed to disseminate to the field on any veterans currently on our job ready status looking for jobs or entering the program for the first time. Do they want to consider these as future occupations or career opportunities, in other words, build or train them to better fit for future employment outcomes. But that is what we do on the national level. On the other hand, at the local level, we have 74 employment coordinators around the country. Whether they are in Little Rock, Arkansas or Atlanta, Georgia, they are going out talking to employers in that market to do the trade in factor, look at the positions, look at the skills required, look at the corporate culture, because how the corporations operate, sometimes it is a little bit different for veterans and how they are making their adjustments. Some of the more friendly and some are very specific on their requirements. So we want to make sure that the veterans are understanding the requirements for that type of corporations and that type of career path because if you are going into a certain career path that kind of locks you in, as far as employment opportunity. So yes, at the bottom line is we are doing it at the national level for employment outreach and then second at the local level through the network of the 74 employment coordinators.
Alright, excellent. Operator, do we have a question from our participants please?
Yes, we do, from Ohio.
Hi. I am employed by the state vocational rehabilitation agency. My question is are service connected disabled veterans automatically discharged from the service?
No. This is Bob Roundtree from the VA. No, in fact we can have veterans who it depends on the type of disability, may not even file for that disability or had it diagnosed until after they are out of the service. So, they are not automatically discharged because of the service connected disability. If it is severe enough to impact their duties or ability to perform their duties, then they go through a physical evaluation board, medical evaluation board and so forth. But no, it is not an automatic discharge from the service because of the service connected disability. For example, some of our veterans have high blood pressure and they may have had the high blood controlled in the military with their medication. They get out of the service, they may have changed the medications, the blood pressure may have changed and now it changes their service connection. So they may file for it at that particular time once they are out of the service. But it did not necessarily bar them from performing their duties in the military position.
Alright, can we have our next question, please.
Okay. Our next question is from Indiana.
Hello. My question is for Mr. Roundtree. How do you coordinate with state vocational rehabilitation to make sure that those dollars are not used for service connected veterans, your dollars can be used only for service connected veterans?
That is a good question, which office are you in there in Indiana?
I actually work for the State ADA Steering Committee.
Ok, I used to work in Indiana. I left there in 1999 and moved to Minnesota. Thats where I started college and then worked for a number of years the Indianapolis regional office and started at the Indiana State University, that wonderful campus down there at Terre Haute. But to answer your question, it is a challenge for us, because it really comes down to those 57 regional offices with their local agreements with the state rehabilitation office because it is different in each state, as far as where they are administered from. What we did in Minnesota when I left there, I worked my last five years in Minnesota before I moved to Washington D.C., is that with the specific state rehabilitation counselors assigned to my territory which was in the central and northern part of Minnesota. I would meet with them and I would go over the requirements for eligibility under our program. They would identify any veterans entering their program to see if that individual had a disability, service connected disability, a disability retirement. And as they develop a plan or were in the early stages of developing a plan, they would make a referral over to me. Because number one, if they were service connected and eligible, we would try to put them under our program, so we can expand our funds over and the state can reserve their dollar for those other individuals. And on the other hand, if we had veterans that we could not find eligible under our program based upon the type of disability or they had elapsed their 12-year eligibility period or might have been a non-service connected issue, then we would work with the state VR. We found state VR to be very, very helpful because in certain states that I worked in, they were able to provide services in a collaborative rehabilitation plan that I was not able to provide. On the other hand, I was able to provide a lot of additional fund for trainings that they had very limited availability to in their budget. So, the key is, the state VR&E officer, in this case, it in Indianapolis you have John Myers, really needs to work with the state rehabilitation for them to identify those veterans that would be eligible under our program, or at least number one that they have a service connected disability. And then second, to have a good relationship with the local counselors throughout the state whether they are based in Fort Wayne or in Indianapolis to review those cases. And to make sure there is not a duplication of effort or a replication of funds that should have been spent out of one budget versus another.
What you are saying is that it is not being done right now?
In some states it is being done very excellent. In other states it is pretty spotty. We are trying to work on that on the national level. Rehabilitation is like politics. All politics and all rehabilitation and employment is local. And so we can provide guidance down to the field stations, but they have to really implement it. I think if there is an issue there in the state of Indiana, you need to talk to John Myers.
Thank you very much. I wanted to say something about the Super Bowl Colts, but I will let that go.
We didnt want to have to cut you off.
We were happy, because the Minnesota Vikings went nowhere.
We have another on-line question, and we can give Bob a break. Here, this one is for Billy. And this is sort of a follow-up to the first question to Bob, is EARN working or looking at specific industries, industries where there are high job growth such as the hospitality industry and healthcare as far as trying to develop relationships or partner up with those areas?
Yes. All of the above. Any employer out there that is looking to create opportunities for veterans and non-veterans with disabilities, we work with them. So it is just all the way across the board. We have federal government agencies that are enrolled in EARN, and private non-profits, private for-profits, Marriott hospitality, it is just all across the board as far as the industry. We work with everyone.
Let me just quickly just piggyback on that real quick. This struck in my brain one thing that happened to us a couple of weeks ago. The American Nursing Association, in the goodness of their hearts, they wanted to come in and present to the VA that they would like to see more recruitment and hiring of veterans under our program into nursing. We thought that would be great and we would sit down with them and go over that. But we were able to whip out on the table and show them exactly how many nurses we were already training around the country. They were shocked that we were doing this already. They were happy but they were shocked about it. Many times here in Washington we have organizations that are always marketing and educating us which is good because there are always things we are finding out. But many times, we are already doing it or we are doing it in conjunction with another partner, agency or program. But as Billy said, we do not hesitate to talk to anyone, because there might be a unique career path or occupation or new credential that we need to get a hold of and understand on how it is going to impact the veterans opportunities in the job market.
Alright, excellent. Operator, can we have our next question, please?
Sure, one moment. Our next question.
Yes. I have a two-part question and this is open to anybody.
Which state is that?
This is a Michigan. We are all citizens of the universe and so but we do not have a professional football team here. This goes to everybody. One, how much and who gives education to the disabled veteran related to rights and responsibilities under laws like the Americans with Disability Act and the Section 504 the Rehabilitation Act, and general advocacy skills? The second part of it is how much and who are the resources in that regard relating to providing reasonable accommodations given to the prospective employer? You all can fight over those.
I will just start it up and let them take over the rest. Who depends on who you contact and who provided that information, it is just based on the employers request. Even in EARN, we do get calls from employers and we have on a network of employers that want to know certain tax incentives and ADA information. We give them information as far as the proper forms, the forms that you need to have filled it out by the employer in order to receive tax credits for hiring job-seekers with disabilities, not only disabled veterans, even food stamp recipients, ex-cons, all across the board. They fall in that target, sort of disadvantaged category. I will let them finish up the rest, but that is just some of the things that we do regarding the ADA. We may provide some of information on a surface level, but if it gets into a case, we will them probably to the Job Accommodation Network. We also have that information on our website. I will let Alicia and Bob follow up on that., but it just based on when the request comes in and how the information and if we were able to help them and refer them to another resource, that is what EARN does and we do provide information as well, as far as providing that information.
From the VR&E perspective, part of ours is that we look at it from the stand point of at what point is the advocacy needed. Is it at the direct job search phase or really in the early phase or them just exploring? Because theres a little different approach to it. So up front, in the initial evaluation and counseling phase, for advocacy to look at things in the community, it might be one of our trained vocational rehabilitation counselors and it may be one of our contractors that we hire to help them with assessments and provide them initial counseling and guidance, through a network of contracts that we have. In the other end for those veterans that are looking at the target of job ready status and they just need help in the job market place and advocate for themselves and their rights and how to maneuver that in a private sector realm of work, again, use those network of 74 employment coordinators or in combination with the of specific contractors that we use for direct job placement or any of the other resources that are in this room or the networks that Billy talked about. So it depends on where they are in the phase of rehabilitation and the type of advocacy they need. Do they need it specific to the employment arena or otherwise?
To piggyback off of what Bob just said, absolutely, it all depends on the individual. It depends on how much they need. Like Bob said as well, utilizing the resources within this room to help with that is basically how we would move forward regarding that. But it all depends on that individual person and how much advocacy and support they actually need. I hope that answered your question.
Actually, we received another on-line question that is probably a good time, folks out there wanted to get your e-mail addresses. Someone had asked for the web address for the E-learning that the Coalition is providing. If we could quickly go through and have everyone give their e-mail addresses. This information is also available as part of the handouts and materials that were made available today.
Okay, I will give my e-mail address first. As far as the E-learning goes, I do not have that information on me right now. But if you send me an email, anybody who is interested in that, I can send that information to them when I get back into the office. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alright, Billy? I am sorry did you also include the web address?
I do not have that information on me right now. But if someone was interested in that, they can absolutely send me an e-mail requesting that information and I can send it out.
Are you ready for mine?
Yes, go ahead.
Okay, it is email@example.com. Let me give you my 800 number, that is toll free, you can reach me directly or they will transfer you to me. It is 1-866-327-6669 and it is on the slide as well. Employers, do not hesitate to give us a call. No matter what the question is, we will be happy to answer. We get all types of questions. We will not hold anything against you. It is a comfortable trustworthy environment. So if you have any questions, we hear from all types of employers. They have all types of questions that even if it is not necessarily politically correct. Do not worry about it, we wont forward that information to anyone. There is no need to be afraid to talk to us directly about anything that you need to do or how you want to recruit.
My e-mail is really difficult one. It is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alright, Operator, do we have another question please?
Sure, as a final reminder, if you would like to get into the queue at this time, please press the one on your touch tone phone. We have a question.
Alright, go ahead with your question.
There is no question there.
It had already been answered in the earlier comment.
Okay. We will take another question from online while folks get their questions in by telephone. This one is to Alicia. You talked about some of the skills training that the Coalition provides, some of the soft skills trainings, in similar to the questions to Bob and to Billy, is the Coalition working with specific industries to train veterans with the skills that are needed for jobs that are currently available?
We are not specifically working with specific industries. What we do is, as I said before, we actually tailor our employment initiatives to service members. So, that means that if there is a service member that comes to my office or said that Alicia, I need help with trying to find a job or training for being a carpenter, that would be a specific area in which I would go to market that service member. We do have a network of employers that we work with. A lot of Fortune 500 organizations as well as state based organizations and non-profits like Bob Roundtree had stated before. But we do not specifically just work with specific organizations or specific industries. We try to have a real network of all types of employers so that when somebody comes to us, we can have that organization or that industry or that business readily available for service members to directly go to. But we do also provide the training, the skills assessment training. We also, the Coalition itself provides professional skills assessment training such as skills assessment training for service members who are going into the workplace, so that if an employer comes to us and says they need a this type of person that we can have that readily available to actually market that individual to an employer.
Excellent. Operator, do we have another question out there at this time?
Yes, we do. Just one moment.
Which state are you calling from?
State of Michigan, the best state in the world. Well, maybe.
Alicia, I need you to repeat your e-mail address please.
Okay, it is email@example.com.
Could each of you talked about the biggest obstacle that you see in what you do on a day-to-day basis, the obstacles for veterans with disabilities in finding employment, both from the perspective of the veteran as well as perhaps the perspective of the employer?
Okay, I will definitely start with that. I meant to actually say this with the last question, but in some of Bobs information that he disseminated to us was that a lot of the folks that we help do need the education and training. With that said, high school is for the most part, what I normally see on an everyday basis. Yes, I do see a bachelor''s degree, yes I do see a master''s degree candidate. However, we do not see those as often. A lot of the organizations that the Coalition has partnered with does have, they have actually created some programs for these specific individuals. I am sure that Bob has worked with Lockheed Martin on numerous initiatives. Lockheed Martin has actually created a program in which they are trying to hire some service members. They want to have a base education level, however, they are going to provide training for them. I feel that that is a very important thing for a lot of employers to do, to actually have a veteran program within their organization that can help those veterans and to not only get on the job training, the professional training as well as the job skills, while they are actually working. I think Lockheed Martin, Oracle is another organization that I work specifically with, Home Depot, I am sure that you have worked with them as well, Bob. A lot of organizations have actually, from the ground up built a veterans initiative so that they can actually meet the needs of those veterans that are out there. I think from the veterans perspective, that is always more attractive. It is not something that every employer can do, which we all completely understand that. However, it is a great need.
Yes, I agree and I think from my perspective and working in the field as a counselor and in job placement, the biggest challenge today is to try to identify employers who want to provide on the job training into career positions. What I mean is, historically people think of OJT and apprenticeships as blue-collar, manufacturing, electricians, plumbers, and that type of thing. And we find today a large number of our veterans who are actually in the service, if they do not necessarily want to spend four years in a college. They would like to use the current transferable skills they have from the military into a track of on the job training, which could be supported by the VA, through formal OJT programs where they can learn and earn on the job. That provides a much more immediate impact for their families, and also good career validation for them that they can see themselves working and being productive immediately versus waiting and deferring for 4 years or 2 years or whatever. The real challenge for us at the VA, when I talk to employers all the time, if they are not going to do a direct recruitment and do an internal mentorship or training programs for the veterans, can we convince them to try a formal VA-OJT which we can design in 46 different ways to meet the needs of the veterans. So employers that want to do OJTs, we would love to see more of that, that would be great for our veterans. They can always find training schools quite honestly, academics there are great universities and colleges. They have designed new programs for veterans. I think from the academic community, they have already hit the table and done the job. But I think what we really need to see is employers that can tie them together with a good on the job training.
This is Billy with EARN. I am so glad that you asked that question, because it really gives me an avenue to really reiterate on the differences between the programs. EARN is an employer service. With one contact, if you are looking to create opportunities for veterans with disabilities, with one contact, you can post a job with us. We disseminate that job to all of the VA regional offices, private nonprofit organizations such as the Coalition, colleges, universities, vet centers, disability veterans outreach programs that are under DOL, veterans employment and trainings. It goes on and on, Marine for Life, AW2 that worked strictly with the Army. You can see it clearly, the way that our programs work and how we partner. We worked strictly for the employer. Basically, the challenges that come with placing veterans, that falls in with Bob and Alicia. They are in the trenches working with the veterans. What we do is connect them with the employer and let them take it from there. Basically the way that we work is we do not hold on to anyone. If you have a job and you want to create an opportunity for a veteran with a disability, contact us and we will definitely get that job to our organization and Bob and Alicia. And from there, the match is made. That is basically it, the way that we work.
Excellent, thanks we are approaching the bottom of the hour. It is time to wrap up. I wanted to thank on the behalf of the DBTAC Regional ADA Centers, Billy Wright, Alicia Ross and Bob Roundtree for joining us today. As a reminder, today''s session was recorded and the audio archive as well as the transcript will be posted approximately 10 to 14 business days, onto the ADA Audio home page along with the materials that were used today. You can locate the contact information for all of today''s speakers within those materials. If you have any remaining questions, you can always contact your regional DBTAC office by calling 800-949-4232. To get information about the March 20th audio conference session, you can visit the audio conference home page at www.ada-audio.org. On March 20th, we will be joined by Dr. Brian McMahon from the Virginia Commonwealth University and the session is on the National EEOC Research Project. The EEOC has entered into an agreement with researchers at VCU regarding complaints that have been filed under Title I the Employment Provision of the ADA. Dr. McMahon will join us in March to break down those complaints and give a glimpse into the types of complaints that are being filed. As always, I would like to thank all of you for participating in the ADA Audio Conference series. I look forward to having you join us in March. Thanks everyone and have a great afternoon.