Or­ga­ni­za­tions help vet­er­ans find jobs

Re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing sev­eral from Ch­ester County, will be at event tonight to help vet­er­ans seek­ing em­ploy­ment

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­ian Den­nis mden­nis@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

A va­ri­ety of groups and busi­nesses in the area work to of­fer vet­er­ans sup­port in both jobs and other ar­eas.

For many vet­er­ans who re­turn from duty, strug­gles don’t end upon their re­turn.

Al­though the rate of un­em­ploy­ment de­clined to 5.8 per­cent for Gulf War era II vet­er­ans in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics, that’s not stop­ping lo­cal non­prof­its and busi­nesses from work­ing to help make sure the prob­lem con­tin­ues to di­min­ish for all vet­er­ans.

Vets for Vets, an or­ga­ni­za­tion lo­cated in Penns­burg that works to help vet­er­ans tran­si­tion back to civil­ian life, re­cently joined forces with The Open Link. Open link is a multi-ser­vice agency serv­ing the greater Up­per Perkiomen Val­ley that pro­vides ser­vices and pro­grams that help pro­mote so­cial­iza­tion and vol­un­teerism for peo­ple of all ages.

Jake Leone, founder and ad­min­is­tra­tor of Vets for Vets said that with the new part­ner­ship they are now able to set up each vet­eran with an em­ploy­ment coun­selor at The Open Link and com­plete an em­ploy­ment as­sess­ment once they are ac­cepted into the Vets for Vets pro­gram.

“We’re ba­si­cally in­cor­po­rat­ing it into the VFV in-pro­cess­ing check­list. This will in­clude an em­ploy­ment goals re­view, re­sume as­sis­tance, in­ter­view skills train­ing and ap­pli­ca­tion fol­low­ing up as­sis­tance,” said Leone. “There’s an ap­pli­ca­tion and in­ter­view process. They sit down and we get to know them. We ask them why they’re here and make sure they rec­og­nize that they need the help.”

Ac­cord­ing to Leone, the pro­gram’s part­ner­ship with The Open Link has helped about three dif­fer­ent vet­er­ans find jobs over the past few months. Since the pro­gram’s in­cep­tion, it has as­sisted about a dozen vet­er­ans with the job search process.

The Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics found that among the 495,000 un-

em­ployed vet­er­ans in 2015, 57 per­cent were age 45 and older. About 37 per­cent of un­em­ployed vet­er­ans were age 25 to 44, and 5 per­cent were age 18 to 24. For the or­ga­ni­za­tion, most of the vet­er­ans they as­sist are Afghanistan and Iraq vet­er­ans, rang­ing in age from late 20s to early 30s, Leone said.

“Based off the trends I’ve

seen and the ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had, it comes down to the fact that many of these guys and women join the mil­i­tary as kids and they es­tab­lish a par­tic­u­lar skill set. Many are from com­bat arms back­grounds. And when they get out, if they don’t want to work in se­cu­rity it’s not a trans­fer­able job cri­te­ria for a civil­ian,” ex­plained Leone. “Many don’t know where to start. They don’t have men­tor­ship or lead­er­ship and they’re left to fend for them­selves. It’s an in­tim­i­dat­ing process.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Leone ex­plained, many vet­er­ans they help end up work­ing in the trade in­dus­try due to, what he says is a lack of busi­ness com­merce op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“We don’t have a lot of busi­ness com­merce. We mostly place them in trade crafts. We’re look­ing at busi­nesses with ap­pren­tice­ships, the busi­nesses that want vet­er­ans and are will­ing to train,” said Leone.

Leone said that, in his opin­ion, there is of­ten a dis­con­nect be­tween busi­nesses that say they hire vet­er­ans

and those that ac­tu­ally do.

“There’s a lot of busi­nesses that say they want to hire vet­er­ans but when it comes down to it, I’ve seen a big gap in the com­pa­nies that say they want to and the com­pa­nies that ac­tu­ally do. Many times when we have them fol­low up they tend to be looked over. I haven’t got­ten a real ex­pla­na­tion for that. In my opin­ion, there’s a stigma with vet­er­ans that come out of a com­bat arms back­ground.”

Luck­ily, Vets for Vets isn’t alone in its ef­fort to as­sist

vet­er­ans.

A va­ri­ety of groups and busi­nesses in the Tri­County area work year round to of­fer vet­er­ans sup­port in both jobs and other ar­eas. Among those or­ga­ni­za­tions are the Mont­gomery County Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Of­fice, Ch­ester County Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Of­fice, Dis­abled Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans, Mont­gomery County Vet Cen­ter, Health Ben­e­fits Ad­min­is­tra­tion, VA Coatesville, Mont­gomery County and Ch­ester County Recorder of Deeds of­fices, Ch­est­nut

Knoll At Home Ser­vices, Spring Val­ley YMCA, Philadel­phia Free­dom Val­ley YMCA, Spring-Ford Coun­sel­ing Ser­vices, and Phoenixville Hospi­tal.

Vet­er­ans will have the op­por­tu­nity to speak with those or­ga­ni­za­tions tonight at the Third An­nual Break­ing Down the VA Ben­e­fits Wall at the Spring Val­ley YMCA, lo­cated at 19 W. Lin­field-Trappe Road, Lim­er­ick, start­ing at 5:30 p.m.

To do­nate or learn more about Vets for Vets visit www.sol­dier­to­civil­ian.org.

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