National Organization on Disability Implores Federal Government to Adopt Successful Wounded Warrior Model
New Report Finds 70-Percent of Severely Wounded Veterans Now on Pathway to Employment -- More Than Twice the Success Rate Reported to NOD of Veterans Not Enrolled in Program
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Organization on Disability (NOD) today released the results of a four-year evaluation of its Wounded Warrior Careers program and called on the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, along with service providers nationwide, to adopt NOD's proven, cost-effective model that successfully places severely wounded veterans into the civilian workforce.
Lieutenant General (RET) Franklin L. Hagenbeck, a member of the NOD board of directors and former deputy chief of staff for Personnel, Department of the Army, reported that in its first four years, Wounded Warrior Careers (WWC) has served 275 seriously injured veterans, 70% of whom are now employed, receiving education or in training. In contrast, for Wounded Warriors with similar disabilities not enrolled in WWC, it has been reported to NOD that the comparable figure is between 30 and 40%.
"The successful transition of Wounded Warriors into civilian careers provides an invaluable opportunity for the United States to continue benefiting from the dedication, talent, and leadership of its bravest young people," said LTG Hagenbeck during a news conference at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of Disabled American Veterans. "But more fundamentally, making sure that this transition is successful is the ultimate debt we owe to those most severely injured in their country's service. The question therefore is not whether such an effort is called for, but how creative, smart, and effective that effort can be."
LTG Hagenbeck served as the Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 2006 to 2010. In the months immediately following 9/11, he led ground troops during "Operation Anaconda" on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
"The dedicated career specialists at NOD – many of whom were wounded veterans themselves – have developed a model that works, at a sustainable cost of about $3,500 per veteran, per year," said LTG Hagenbeck. "NOD is proud of the work we do on behalf of our veterans and we wish to see the federal government, particularly the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, as well as providers of career services to disabled veterans, embrace that model and expand its reach to many more deserving veterans."
LTG Hagenbeck and NOD President Carol Glazer this week are meeting with Congressional and Pentagon officials to share the report's findings, which can be downloaded at NOD.org.
More than 500,000 military personnel have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with disabling conditions over the last dozen years, many of them severe enough to be life altering. According to a study by Rand Corporation, as many as one out of every three of the 2.4 million troops that have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan will be returning home with Post Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury, the war's "signature" injuries.
"In 2007, the U.S. Army asked NOD to design a solution," said Glazer. "The result of this collaboration is the Wounded Warrior Careers Demonstration. We have served hundreds of the most severely injured veterans and their families by helping them to begin planning and preparing for careers, enrolling in school or training programs, taking jobs, and moving ahead. In four years, NOD has built a scalable model and helped hundreds of veterans and their families successfully reintegrate."
Glazer noted that since WWC began many similar organizations have been developed, often using the name "wounded warrior." They help ensure veterans receive the benefits to which they're entitled, but few help veterans pursue a career. At the same time, many companies are recognizing the value of hiring veterans and are beginning to lower the unemployment rate of this population. While this progress is notable, these programs do not target veterans who've returned home with disabling conditions.
"Through Wounded Warrior Careers, NOD uniquely operates at that nexus between unemployment and disability," said Glazer. "Few other organizations—public, private, or corporate—do that. We're showing that with the right support, even our most seriously disabled veterans can, and do, make a huge contribution to our country's workforce while regaining a sense of dignity that comes with a career."
Between 2008 and 2012, WWC has served 275 veterans and their families in Texas, Colorado and North Carolina – the chosen locations of the demonstration project. NOD intends to add new sites in 2013 and 2014, to be announced at a later date. As documented in the evaluation, NOD's model is based on six core principles: Veteran-Centered; Proactive; Prolonged; Holistic; Results-Focused; and Collaborative.
"A trusting relationship with the veterans we serve is particularly important considering the kinds of injuries that are most common in the WWC population," said Bill Lockwood, Director, NOD Wounded Warrior Careers. "That's why we take great care in choosing our Career Specialists, many of whom have served in the military themselves with the unique ability to be empathetic toward the needs of their fellow veterans."
Also in attendance were two veterans working with WWC, Charmetri Bulluck and Ronnie Morgan. Hagenbeck noted that it was particularly meaningful to release the report at Disabled American Veterans (DAV), which was founded in 1920 by disabled veterans returning from World War I to represent their unique interests. It was later congressionally chartered as the official voice of the nation's wartime disabled veterans and remains an important voice for today's wounded veterans.
The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, non-profit organization that promotes the full participation of America's 56 million people with disabilities in all aspects of life. The organization's current focus is on increasing employment opportunities for the 79 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. Current employment programs benefit individuals with disabilities looking for employment, high school students with disabilities transitioning into the workforce, seriously wounded, ill and injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and employers seeking to become more diverse by expanding existing diversity initiatives to include people with disabilities. For more information about NOD, its CEO Council, and employment programs, visit www.NOD.org.
SOURCE National Organization on Disability