Talent Knows No Limits
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""Don't be afraid to go for it, because you won't know unless you try."

Success Stories of Veterans with disabilities

A vet talks about why vets make good employees.

Northrop Grumman – Operation IMPACT

Northrop Grumman, a global defense company headquartered in California, is opening doors for today's wounded warriors and their families. Col. Duane Hardesty, a 30-year Army veteran, works as an Outreach Manager for Northrop Grumman's Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition). The program provides transition support and employment to service members who have been severely injured in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Hardesty says, "We wanted to put into place a program that would help our wounded warriors so they would not end up like veterans who returned from the Vietnam War - injured and lacking a support system to help them transition back into the workforce."

Hardesty emphasizes that the program is for wounded warriors and their families. In cases where the service member has died or is too severely injured to serve as the primary wage earner for his or her family, the program is made available to one alternate wage earner in the family, such as a spouse or parent. In fact, the first person hired in the program was the father of a service member who was severely injured in Iraq in June 2003. He quit his job and moved to Washington, D.C., to help his son recover from a bullet wound in the back of the neck that left him paralyzed. After meeting with an Operation IMPACT team member at a center for veterans, this dedicated father was hired for a position at Northrop Grumman.

For veterans to qualify, candidates must have been severely injured during combat operations in the GWOT on or after September 11, 2001; received a disability rating of 30% or greater from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and received one or more special category designation (SPECAT) casualty codes for the injury sustained. Debbie Ortega, Operation IMPACT's Intake Manager, works closely with the candidates to place them in positions. She finds out their aptitudes, whether they need assistive technology in the workplace, and if they're willing to relocate.

In each of Northrop Grumman's eight business sectors, Operation IMPACT has designated an ombudsman, or Champion, who recruits and places wounded soldiers and their families into available openings. On any given day, Northrop Grumman has up to 4,700 job openings ranging from entry- to senior-level positions. The company is committed to ensuring the success of its employees with disabilities. If an opening is not available for a certain wounded veteran, the company takes a customized employment approach and creates one, utilizing such strategies as job carving.

While many of the wounded warriors lack the academic credentials of other Northrop Grumman employees-because they went straight into the military from high school-their real life experiences and dedication translate into marketable skills. According to Hardesty, what they lack in academics, they make up for in their commitment to getting the job done. Additionally, Northrop Grumman offers these job candidates the opportunity to earn a degree through its college-assistance program. Operation IMPACT is always looking to improve its process. Recently, it hired two nurses to track all new hires in the program. Hardesty says that the candidates sometimes feel more comfortable talking to a medical professional instead of their employer if they are having problems on the job or need assistive technology.

Hardesty is proud to be making a difference in the lives of severely wounded service members and their families. He is truly making an impact by opening doors to new opportunities through Northrop Grumman's Operation IMPACT.

Source : http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/hardesty.html

Mike Bradley

mike bradleyMike Bradley always wanted to be an emergency medical technician. When his brother-in-law, also a medic, told him that he could become one by joining the Army, Bradley decided to enlist in the Armed Forces. His career in the military, however, was cut short when he suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq. After an early medical retirement in 2007, Bradley decided he wanted to try a new career path; he had seen a lot of difficult things in Iraq. When Bradley left the military, he was very worried about finding a new job. He hadn't interviewed since age 16, and life in the military was a constant 24/7 duty. A career counselor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) helped him update his résumé. While he lacked a college degree, Bradley had leadership and medical experience from his time in the Army, but he didn't exactly know what he wanted to do. After posting dozens of résumés on job boards using the Internet, he only received two responses. Suffering from depression - a symptom of TBI - he decided to take a break from the job search until the new year.

His luck changed when he was introduced to a case manager from the Wounded Warrior Project Warriors to Work (WtoW) program, Ryan Kules. Through the WtoW program, individuals recovering from severe injuries are connected with the support and resources they need to build a career in the civilian workforce. Within a week, Bradley was sent a job listing for a position requiring applicants to work seven days on and a seven-day shift, followed by seven days off. He wondered if he could handle this position, especially given his TBI and the memory loss he sometimes experiences. Ultimately, he accepted this position with Halfaker & Associates, a security consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. where he now works.

Once connected to the job market through the Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) program, Bradley's phone continued to ring with job leads. He began to feel marketable and he enjoyed having choices among the many job offerings. He credits AW2 with helping him find his new job and says he would have been lost without its services.
Bradley now realizes that there are many small organizations that are willing to hire wounded veterans like Halfaker & Associates. Halfaker & Associates placed Bradley in a position at the Naval Yard in Washington, D.C., where he monitors information and turns it around to the proper channels.

One of the greatest sources of satisfaction for Bradley is the fact that his supervisor at Halfaker & Associates, also a wounded veteran, can relate to his condition. Bradley isn't afraid of being misunderstood or ostracized if he calls into the office to request a day off because he has a migraine. Halfaker & Associates has provided a flexible work schedule for Bradley in order to accommodate issues that arise because of his TBI.
While he may be retired from the Army, Bradley is still very much a part of it, both through his current job and his volunteer work with the Salute Military Golf Association. The association helps wounded warriors get back onto the golf course but, more importantly, it helps them improve their quality of life through the rehabilitative benefits of golf.

Bradley has some advice for wounded veterans with TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who are trying to find civilian jobs. "Don't be afraid to go for it," he says, "Because you won't know unless you try." In addition, he encourages soldiers to use the resources available to them, such as the many military and veteran organizations that offer services to wounded veterans.

Excerpt from : http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/bradley.html

Gary Boggs

gary boggsGary Boggs knew what he was signing up for when he joined the Army. What he didn't anticipate were the invisible wounds that he would suffer when his Humvee rolled over a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2003. As a result, Boggs suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), loss of his left eye, damage to nerves in both arms and his hearing, and shrapnel wounds to his left side. It was only after a lengthy recovery, medical retirement from the Army, and a succession of jobs, that Boggs was actually diagnosed with a mild case of TBI. Prior to hearing his diagnosis, he thought he was merely having difficulty transitioning back into civilian life. His job at Home Depot didn't come close to Boggs's level of responsibility in the military. In Iraq, he had managed 20 interpreters and worked in a mission-critical combat environment.

Boggs credits the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes (http://www.saluteheroes.org/) - an organization that helps wounded soldiers adjust to living back home - as playing a major role in his successful transition to civilian life. At the Coalition's 2006 conference, Boggs met Duane Hardesty, an employee at Northrop Grumman, who recruited Boggs to work for the defense company through its Operation IMPACT program, a transition program for severely injured service members.

Today, Boggs is a national spokesperson for the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes. He says the program is a great support and notes that if he hadn't talked to a fellow soldier at one of the Coalition's conferences about his forgetfulness, he would still think he was dealing merely with transition adjustment. Boggs has thrown himself into his work at Northrop Grumman where he is a Quality Assurance Engineer for the Mine Countermeasures Integrated Product Team in Melbourne, Fla. He also works as an Operation IMPACT Champion, which allows him to help other wounded service members find the right resources to make a successful transition into the workplace. Boggs speaks highly of Duane Hardesty who, as one of Operation IMPACT's Champions, lends a world of support to the veterans he meets and recruits to work at Northrop Grumman. The company takes a customized employment approach in the workplace, utilizing strategies such as job carving to help ensure the success of its employees with disabilities. "Northrop Grumman is very pro-active in terms of hiring and working with disabled veterans," Boggs says. "They hire veterans and create jobs tailored to their abilities."

Boggs's advice for veterans with TBI and/or PTSD who are seeking employment is to have trust in people. He recommends getting involved with veterans groups, such as the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, and reaching out to other wounded soldiers. "You can learn a wealth of information from their experiences," he says.

Excerpt from : http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/boggs.html

Colonel Bill Martin

Boasting a distinguished 28-year career in the military, retired Colonel Bill Martin is no stranger to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a medical task force commander in Iraq, Martin managed several hospitals and clinics and was responsible for health care for all civilian detainees.

When Martin returned from Iraq in May 2006, he was eager to secure a civilian job related to military programs. So he felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to join consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton (Booz Allen). When he began his position with Booz Allen, Martin was assigned to handle compensation claims for traumatically injured veterans. However, it wasn't long before the nature of the work began triggering symptoms of PTSD. Martin's symptoms included sleepless nights, anger, becoming withdrawn around others and difficulty focusing at work. While Booz Allen offered to rotate Martin through other assignments in the firm, he elected to leave the company to explore opportunities that would distance him from the work he felt was triggering his symptoms.

It was the manner in which Bill openly worked with Booz Allen that distinguishes his story as a positive model for others to follow. When Martin left Booz Allen, he was open and expressive about the challenges he faced and the time he required to make a mental transition into his post-military career-something he didn't realize he would require. After taking a few months off, Martin felt ready to approach a former Booz Allen colleague about returning to work for the firm under different circumstances. Since his previous work related to severely injured soldiers had triggered his PTSD, Booz Allen worked closely with him to identify a position that would best leverage his experience and expertise without causing flashbacks.

Today, Martin is thriving in his new role, and he fully recognizes the importance of meaningful work as a crucial ingredient for successful PTSD treatment. He admits that his bouts with PTSD surface as flashbacks when he is not fully engaged in an activity. Thankfully, his work can serve as a helpful diversion since an important project allows him to focus and draw his memories away from Iraq. He acknowledges that support and advocacy from his co-workers have played a key role in his recovery since having the opportunity to openly discuss his feelings and experiences with people he can trust is vitally important.

Martin is sharing his employment story to inspire other wounded, ill and injured veterans to seek employment, and to help reduce the stigma associated with PTSD. His advice for others suffering from combat stress is to take ownership of the condition and not allow it to affect one's ability to transition from the military into civilian life. "You have to get the treatment you need," says Martin. "So be candid with your employer about your symptoms and create a partnership where you can share with them your skill set and strengths. Armed with that knowledge, your employer can do the best they can to find a job that fits you and makes you successful."

Excerpt from : http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/martin.html

Ryan Kule

ryan kuleReturning from a mission early one morning in Iraq, Ryan Kules's; vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED). Ran lost an arm and a leg in the explosion and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He was comatose for the next few weeks and remembers only waking in the hospital. After a long healing process, Ryan transitioned out of the Army. Successful employment in the civilian world was not far behind. While attending a water sports event in Albany, N.Y., he met an executive from the Wounded Warrior Project, which resulted in Ryan's becoming the project manager of the Warriors to Work (WtoW) program. The WtoW program helps those men and women in the armed forces who have been severely injured during the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations around the world return to the workforce.

Recognizing that individuals with TBI can face difficulties in the workplace, Ryan worked closely with his employer to create an accommodating work environment that would help him thrive in his new civilian position. A flexible work schedule is one example. "It makes me more successful to work from home," says Ryan. "I'm lucky that WWP understands that there are solutions to some of the limitations."
As a recovered veteran with TBI, Ryan knows that it takes time to get used to one's body and mind after a severe injury. He says that people with TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can experience many different levels of disability with these injuries, from having difficulty speaking, to being able to eat independently, to having altered cognitive abilities.

Speaking from his own experience, Ryan has some advice to offer other wounded and injured warriors about finding and securing a civilian career. "Start down the road to make the transition," he says. "Even if you think you may not be able to work, you can."  

Excerpt from : http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/kules.html

Gorman P.

GormanGorman P., an equipment operator 2nd Class with the U.S. Navy, was running convoys in Iraq when a sudden sandstorm hit. A fast-traveling 90-pound wood plank hit him in the head, causing a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Due to his injury, he was unable to return to his former civilian job as a truck driver, so he began considering new employment. Although he had some ideas about alternative career options, he knew he would need additional education.

While recuperating from his injury, Gorman enrolled in the Transition Training Academy (TTA), a pilot project for disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan designed to hone their information technology skills and provide them with marketable credentials.

The TTA project is a public-private collaboration of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and its Job Accommodation Network, the Labor Department's Veterans Employment and Training Service, the Naval Medical Center at San Diego, California Employment Development, Inverness Technologies and Cisco.
After completing the program, Gorman obtained a job with Universal Understanding LLC, a premier partner consulting and training services company of Cisco Technologies. Today, he teleworks from his home in Blue Springs, Missouri. Gorman is committed to helping other disabled veterans transition to the civilian workforce. "I wouldn't be where I am today without TTA," he said. "I want to pass along the opportunities that were given to me."

Excerpt from : http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/gormanp.html

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