Veterans With Disabilities: Career Building and Advancement

with Lauren Lobrano of Paralyzed Veterans of America

The number of veterans with a service-connected disability is increasing, presenting employment challenges and barriers for this population.

Lauren Lobrano of Paralyzed Veterans of America joins host Paul Lisnek to discuss efforts to bridge the employment gap for veterans with disabilities.

Posted on:

Nov 04, 2019

Hosted by: Paul Lisnek
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Lisnek: One in five veterans lives with a disability that is connected to active military service, which certainly can present challenges, including employment. Hi. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Paul Lisnek. While underemployment among all veterans is high, those with service-connected disabilities face additional obstacles in the civilian workforce. Joining me to discuss employment challenges and opportunities for vets is Lauren Lobrano. She's the director of the PAVE program at Paralyzed Veterans of AmericaLauren, so good to see you. Lobrano: It's good to see you, as well. Thanks for having me.

Lisnek: When I think of -- Look, I know a lot of vets. Some are disabled, and they are as good or better a worker than anybody else. What is the image that creates the challenge?

Lobrano: That's absolutely correct. I mean, these individuals have persevered through so much, and they have so much opportunity still available to them. We really see several challenges that are created here. First, it starts with the veteran him or herself, having to re-instill that confidence. They have an acquired disability an additional challenge. So working with them one on one to help them understand that there's so many opportunities available to them through employment, through volunteer, through education, re-skilling, retraining, whatever it may be so that they can live fully empowered and engaged lives is important. Second, it's also with the employers. You know, we do a lot of work explaining to employers that these individuals have as much to offer them as any other employee. So the disability should not be a barrier to employment moving forward.

Lisnek: In fact, actually, even as I use the word job, I almost hesitate, because I'm saying a job is a job. But when we're talking about anybody and certainly including disabled veterans, it's about a career.

Lobrano: That's exactly right. It is about a career, and that's one of the things that Paralyzed Veterans of America really focuses on through its PAVE program, our veterans employment program. It's not just, "Let's get somebody back to work." Let's get somebody back to work in an engaged and meaningful way so that they have a career. And often it starts -- It's a step process. So we consider ourselves to be partners for life. So we'll start working with an individual and help them get into that first position. Retraining, building new skills, building confidence, and then work with them for a promotion. Some great individuals who've been through this -- an individual named John, he started working at the V.A. while he was still receiving his master's degree in Healthcare Administration. He was a housekeeper's aide. We helped him after a year receive a promotion to a medical supply clerk, and then several years later, now he's the administrative duty officer of the day. So he's essentially managing whole sections of this hospital. that's the career path we're looking for these individuals

Lisnek: And of course he's always had that ability, right? needed the confidence that got installed and instilled in him through you guys. So if we have vets watching right now who want to use your services, I almost want to take you back prior to this "get you the job" thing, because prior to a job, I need a résumé. I don't know how to interview anymore. Talk to me about what you do.

Lobrano: Absolutely, so, that's a great dissection. So, we consider ourselves to be an employment program, a part of the Paralyzed Veterans of America's employment program. And that starts with the functional pieces, so, the résumé building, LinkedIn, how to network, how to interview. But the biggest part that we offer is actually the hospitality piece. It's that emotional aspect that we really work one on one with our clients to help instill, so that confidence, the understanding of what is still available to them, knowing what their passions are so that we can help them find that path that is engaging to them, and also having some of those hard conversations around the employment space and that it's challenging for anybody sometimes to find a job. But we're gonna be there every step of the way to help ensure that they're fully engaged and successful.

Lisnek: Would you also argue that in many ways, employing a vet and a disabled vet is better than employing somebody who's not? And the reason I say that is because think about the discipline you get through military service, all the -- You know, you ain't going to be late when you've got something to do for the military. And those those traits stay with them.

Lobrano: The hard skills and the soft skills that veterans bring, so it's the showing up on time, the being engaged, the mission oriented. But also, they have a drive. They understand how to persevere. They understand how to work collaboratively. Department of Defense is the most diverse employer in America. So these individuals know from day one at basic training how to get along with other people, or they know they're not going to be successful. So they rely on those skills when they come work for any other company -- how to engage people, how to work with others to accomplish the mission, whatever it may be. Lisnek: And just before we wrap, people that want to reach you, how they do that?

Lobrano: Reach us through Paralyzed Veterans of America, so It's a fantastic organization. We primarily work with spinal-cord injured individuals to ensure that they are fully empowered and engaged. We offer a variety of services, including this employment services, but the majority of our services are available to any veteran, regardless of the spinal cord injury.

Lisnek: Lauren Lobrano, you do such amazing work for our paralyzed vets and other disabled vets. Thank you for the work you do.

Lobrano: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Lisnek: And thank you for joining us, as well. If you want more great conversations with leaders in your community, across our country, all you have to do is go to I'm Paul Lisnek. Thanks for watching.

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