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April 18, 2013

IVMF, Bob Woodruff Foundation lead public-private convening to spur employment of post-9/11 veterans with disabilities

IVMF, Bob Woodruff Foundation lead public-private convening to spur employment of post-9/11 veterans with disabilities

Second in series of Bob Woodruff Foundation’s “High Impact Collaborations” 

BWF_stacked_lockup_outlinesThe Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), today announced it will convene a group of national leaders to investigate underlying barriers to employment among post-9/11 veterans and share leading practices. The meeting comes on the heels of the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, which placed unemployment for post-9/11 veterans at 9.2 percent, but revealed a rate more than three times that figure, 35 percent, among post-9/11 vets ages 20-24.

At the two-day forum, April 23-24 at the Pew Center in Washington, D.C., public and private sector experts will gather to discuss current assumptions and obstacles to employment for veterans, and present leading practice policies and programs having an impact on service members and veterans with disabilities transitioning to civilian employment.  Attendees include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; non-profit leaders, such as the National Organization on Disability (NOD); and corporate executives from GE, IVMF founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Accenture, among others.

“Whether green jobs or disaster relief, the Bob Woodruff Foundation is partnering with local organizations to help post-9/11 veterans chart new careers in the civilian economy,” says Anne Marie Dougherty, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

“Ensuring post-9/11 veterans have access to the kind of employment opportunities where they can contribute to American competitiveness is a chief reason for this meeting,” says Mike Haynie, IVMF executive director and founder, whom Dougherty calls an “objective broker of thought leadership and natural partner.”

The employment picture for veterans, especially those with physical or hidden injuries, is murky, with complexities ranging from physical accommodations to the impact of post-traumatic stress (PTS) on post-combat careers. About 25 percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, compared to 13 percent of all veterans; common injuries include burns, missing limbs, and hearing loss, in addition to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTS. Unemployment data is captured only for veterans with disabilities who are actively looking for work.  Yet there is proof that even for those with life-altering injuries, employment is not only possible, but probable; results from a study from the NOD Wounded Warrior Careers program shows 70 percent of the most seriously injured veterans they serve are either employed, receiving education or training.  Carol Glazer, NOD president, says, “We are making progress to keep these heroes productively engaged in the workforce where their skills and talents can shine.”

Haynie concurs, citing the IVMF’s “The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran:  Beyond the Clichés,” a report supported by academic research that outlines a robust, specific and compelling business case for hiring individuals with military background and experience. “Companies who hire veterans can realize not only enhanced performance, but organizational advantage,” he says.  The IVMF’s employment programs for veterans focus on two goals:  first, moving veterans with disabilities into the labor market, and second, from underemployed to fully employed.

James Schmeling, IVMF managing director and co-founder, adds, “The veteran community has much to learn from the disability community’s 30 years of advances in accommodation practices and innovations, whether technological or practice-oriented. Combining expertise of these stakeholders will enable employment, retention and advancement in the civilian workforce for veterans with disabilities.”

Those convening next week’s meeting believe industry must play a part. Haynie characterized the upcoming employment convening as a step in the right direction, and an example of collaboration for the common good—where private sector competitors share internal processes, programs and lessons learned that would not ordinarily be revealed as common business practice.

Corporate participant, GE, concurs.  “We’re honored to have more than 10,000 U.S. military veterans continue their careers with our company. But, in order to drive meaningful impact, greater private/public collaboration is needed,” says Kris Urbauer, program manager of GE Veterans Initiatives.

For non-profit and corporate leaders not in attendance, the event will be live-streamed on the BWF YouTube channel, in addition to VetNet HQ. The IVMF and BWF will jointly issue a post-convening report in the interest of what Dougherty calls, “shared learning and actionable tools and resources.”

BWF created its “High Impact Collaboration Series” to address the deeply entrenched issues that can prevent veterans from thriving long term. The first meeting was held last year, in partnership with the VA, on adaptive sports and therapeutic recreation.  “These key stakeholder meetings are designed to promote immediate and actionable strategic partnering among the government, military, nonprofit and corporate participants who come together to drive change,” Dougherty says.

To incent cooperation, at the close of the last meeting, the foundation announced it would no longer consider grant requests that do not include some form of collaboration.  “This is about delivering meaningful outcomes to veterans and their families,” Dougherty maintains.  “That requires exerting an influence on others engaged in this effort.”

To inquire about attendance at the April 23-24 forum hosted by the BWF and IVMF in D.C., contact Ashley Bunce at

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