You probably know it best as the agency that former service members rely on for health care and support once they’ve transitioned from active duty. But the VA is taking on a whole new aspect of long-term care for veterans: helping them find jobs.
Last month, the VA officially launched VA for Vets, a program that aims to both retain the 100,000+ veterans now employed by the VA and help other veterans find employment.
The VA employs the second-largest percentage of veteran among all federal departments. Currently, 30 percent of the VA’s employees are veterans; the organization’s goal is to raise that to 40 percent. It’s part of the effort to combat the high rate of unemployment among veterans and increase the percentage of the workforce that’s composed of veterans, a VA spokeswoman said.
“Secretary [Eric Shinseki] is very committed to employment starting with the VA but also in general,” said Jo Schuda, VA public affairs specialist.
More than 1 million service members are projected to leave the military by 2016, according to a statement from the VA. Information from the VA also shows the unemployment rate among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan recently hit 13.1 percent, compared to 7.7 percent among all veterans.
President Obama recently cited the need to put more veterans to work in his State of the Union address, and has announced financial incentives for communities that put more veterans to work as well as a $1 billion Veterans Job Corps that will employ 20,000 veterans over the next five years, the Washington Postreported.
VA for Vets recently held a job fair in Washington, D.C., where federal and private sector employers conducted 2,600 interviews that resulted in 500-plus tentative job offers, Schuda said.
“We’ve not really had programs to serve rank-and-file veterans except to offer them employment in the VA,” Schuda said. “This event was designed to open other avenues to them. It was a means to expand our reach beyond our own workforce while we continue to try to increase our own workforce with veterans.”
But you don’t have to make it to job fairs to benefit from the program. VA for Vets includes a high-tech approach to hiring and integrating veterans into civilian careers, Schuda explained. It offers an online military skills translator and career assessment tool that helps users translate their skills into occupations that can be found in federal jobs. The site also offers a resume builder and job search engine.
“The VA for vets program is really an online, integrated kind of platform to recruiting, hiring and integrating veterans into civilian jobs,” Schuda said.
In the current economy, job hunting assistance is now part of the VA’s big-picture commitment to caring for the men and women who have served in the military, according to Schuda.
“Our mission of course is to support veterans in every respect as much as possible, Schuda said. “It goes back to our mission being to serve veterans. It’s something they deserve and it’s part of the (VA’s) total support for them.”