Coming Together to Tackle Unemployment Among Veterans

Now that Campaign 2012 is quickly becoming a distant memory -- and as the effort to build bridges after a hotly-contested race intensifies in Washington and across our great nation -- here's something that we can all agree is an important problem that we can all help solve: unemployment for veterans with disabilities.

Every American has a role to play. Every community has a job to do in this all out effort to help this highly skilled, virtually untapped, human resource -- veterans of the best military force in the world -- secure good, competitive careers. We all can help these injured heroes become independent, productive tax payers, and help them reach their full potential.

First a word about unemployment figures: we heard about them a lot in the recent election. But throughout all these conversations and debates, we didn't hear anything about how much higher unemployment is for veterans with disabilities -- three to eight times higher it has been estimated. Nor did we hear anything about how much harder it is to secure a good career when you still face the barriers of fear and discrimination.

Imagine that 20-year-old soldier who was shot in the neck and paralyzed in Afghanistan. He's skilled. He's loyal. He's courageous. He's energetic. He's a team player. He overcomes adversity every day. But he's paralyzed and unemployed. He just can't seem to get a break.

How can we tackle this problem?

Paralyzed Veterans of America does it through our Mission: ABLE campaign. The jobs piece of that is called PAVE, Paving Access for Veterans Employment-- which involves all sectors in finding a sustainable solution to unemployment. Through PAVE, we connect directly with injured veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spinal cord injury centers. Our growing network of career counselors across the nation work with these awesome potential employees every step of the way in that journey back to the work force.

The counselors also directly connect and engage employers and educate them about the advantages of hiring veterans with disabilities. They also dispel any myths there may be about the cost of adapting workplaces for workers in wheelchairs. By the way, adaptation can be a straight forward as moving chairs out of an office to make way for a worker who uses a wheelchair. And there is plenty of government help to make places-of-work barrier-free for those who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.

How many veterans have we helped? We are working with more than 1,600 clients and this figure is growing every day. We've secured careers for close to 500 hard-to-place veterans. We've partnered with more than 450 employers including well-known brands such as Walgreens, Best Buy and Microsoft.

So as we celebrate Veterans Day, please join us in being part of the solution to this vexing but surmountable problem.

Take a look around your neighborhood. Reach out to unemployed veterans with disabilities - indeed any unemployed veterans you know in your community and tell them that Paralyzed Veterans of America is here to help them find good, competitive careers. Suggest they visit Operation Pave for details.

If you are an employer, please take a look around your workplace. If you have no veterans with disabilities working for you then that's a problem -- but it's a problem we can solve together. We need you to reach out to us. We can help connect you with some outstanding potential employees and help you play your part in paving access for veterans employment.

This is a strategy that we believe is not just good for veterans; not just good for business; it's great for the country we all love.