07/01/2013 04:30 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

Heroes at Work: The Job Talents of Vets

Co-written with David Muir, Jr., Senior Vice President, Veteran Staffing Network, Easter Seals Serving DC | MD | VA

As a U.S. Marine, Tonia had served her country valiantly. But on the home front, she found herself in a troubling personal battle. She lost her job. She began receiving eviction notices. Then, her car was repossessed.

Unfortunately, Tonia's story is not rare. Despite valuable work and leadership skills, veterans experience unemployment -- and homelessness -- at rates significantly above the national average.

Addressing this national problem requires a holistic approach that provides support and guidance to both vets and businesses. Such a strategy was the impetus behind the Veteran Staffing Network (VSN), an initiative launched this month by Easter Seals Serving DC | MD | VA, and Capital One Bank, headquartered in McLean, Va.

The experience Easter Seals has in serving the nation's most vulnerable populations for nearly 100 years serves as the foundation of VSN, a self-sustaining social enterprise that serves the entire military community.

VSN serves as a nonprofit staffing agency, helping connect businesses seeking top-notch job candidates with veterans and their spouses seeking employment. The agency recognizes that support for our veterans returning to the workforce should not stop at job placement, but should also focus on retention and long-term employment.

With the support of Easter Seals, Tonia is now working as a dispatcher. Easter Seals helped her in crafting a resume. It gave her training in mock interviews. She was even taken shopping to buy clothes for meetings with potential employers. Ultimately, the program helped Tonia find a job and achieve financial stability.

"It makes you realize that you are still important to society," Tonia said, speaking of her experience in the program and returning to the workforce after service.

Each veteran in the program is teamed with an Easter Seals mentor, who helps manage logistical and emotional challenges that could sabotage a veteran's chances for long-term success on the job.

Furthermore, the businesses in this partnership need help too. While experts in their fields, many employers are likely not aware of the unique talents that military service can equip veterans with or the unique challenges that veterans returning to the civilian workforce face. The Veteran Staffing Network program offers workshops for businesses looking to employ veterans that hone management skills and broaden company outreach.

The network is also devoted to supporting the full spectrum of challenges facing veterans and their families. That can mean assistance with child care, extensive training for care-givers and emotional support for spouses, among other services. Additionally, wounded warriors receive special attention and assistance.

The work of the Veterans Staffing Network means that more jobs are being filled by people with suitable skills. That is a boon to vets and a huge boost for the overall economy.

While many organizations want to hire veterans and support our military families, they may not know where to start. Here are some tips from the Veteran Staffing Network:

1. Educate Your Company on Available Resources:

- Plug into your state's Department of Labor/ Veteran Employment Programs.

- Tap into local Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs).

- Introduce your business to the American Job Center near you ( and request a meeting with the Disabled Veteran Employment Professional (DVOP) or Local Veteran Employment Representative (LVER).

2. Recognize the Value of Military Talent, such as high performance, loyalty, punctuality, respect for teamwork and the meaning of a larger mission. Encourage staff to appreciate how these traits will strengthen an organization. The investment extended to hire a veteran will provide a return in many ways.

3. Become Familiar with Skills Translation. Many jobs in the civilian workforce correlate directly to roles and skills developed in the military. The challenge for most employers is understanding how these military skills relate to the needs of a civilian organization. To learn more about how military expertise can translate, check from the U.S. Department of Labor and from the U.S Department of Defense.

4. Hire for Aptitude Not Experience. Employers frequently do not realize that the experience gained in the military is fast-paced and detailed. A job candidate with six months of experience in a particular function in the military might have more "hands on" time than a civilian counterpart with years in the role. Evaluate a service member's qualifications on the basis of skills.

Hiring a veteran brings extraordinary new skills to an organization. It can also inspire colleagues who might never have pulled on a uniform. The entire team becomes stronger.

To learn more, contact the Veteran Staffing Network at 855.VETS111 or visit