COLUMBUS, Ga (WRBL)- What’s in a name change? A great deal of listening and planning upgrades to services to assist America’s veterans with disabilities in finding employment opportunities after their Armed Forces service.
“So we heard from veterans, all across the country, over the last two years that they don’t remember hearing about the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, or if they did, the word ‘vocational’ didn’t resonate with them in terms of modern career opportunities and ‘rehabilitation’ had a negative connotation which meant that they might be broken or might have to be the most seriously disabled to participate in our program,” said William (Will) F. Streitberger, the director of the newly renamed Veterans Readiness and Employment Service, a benefits program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“So we listened to them, and we wanted to honor their service by renaming our program that focused on the veteran, their readiness, which they’re completely used to having been in the military, and employment which is the entire focus of our program. So that’s why we became Veteran Readiness and Employment– so we could empower our veterans to achieve their vocational or career goals so that they could be successful in the employment marketplace,” said Streitberger.
VR&E offers veterans who face disabilities that keep them from continuing in the career fields the military trained them for the ability to seek new, rewarding challenges that complement their abilities and skills
“We need to identify and help them re-imagine what their careers will look like after we provide them with some training or education, or other types of career-opportunity learning experiences, like the on-the-job training programs,” said Streitberger. “So once we do that, we get them into a program to start charting a program for their success.”
And Streitberger stresses the training is not all that VR&E offers.
“And at the end when they have completed all that training, we provide them with a comprehensive suite of employment services to help them prepare their resumes, dress for success, how to interview, find career opportunities, and then, actually stabilize their new employment opportunity, if necessary, with their new employer,” said Streitberger.
Streitberger explains VR&E is committed to helping match veterans with employment opportunities, should the veterans need that assistance. He says more than 72 employment coordinators work in every state across the country who are able to help match veterans with potential employment opportunities.
“They work directly with the veteran to help them identify employers at the national, regional, or local level to help them secure employment through our relationships that we have with our terrific employers all across the nation who are dedicated to hiring veterans. We make those connections happen and get them employed through those relationships,” Striteberger said.
Striteberger says technology implementations helped bring VR&E into the 21st century and says it’s been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The one that’s been so crucial to us during the COVID pandemic has been our VA Video Connect platform which has allowed us to remain engaged, provide continuity of service to our veterans by offering tele-counseling services. We are modernizing our case management system and we’re also deploying our artificial intelligence, which we call the Electronic Virtual Assistant,” said Striteberger.
Striteberger says veterans can use their smart devices to manage appointments, transact documents and more. In short, it provides the VR&E to able to continue and to expand services while saving veterans a trip to an office to get needed help.
The one thing Striteberger wants to stress to veterans with disabilities who need help rebuilding careers after military service is that VR&E works—and that’s not just lip-service to promote the program he directs.
“I, myself, am a success story of this program. After the horrific effects of 9/11, I found myself unemployed. I came to the Veteran Readiness and Employment program, participated, got my education, started working for the VA,” said Striteberger. “Fast-forward 18 years later, I have the privilege and honor to run the very program that saved my professional life, so it works.”
For more information on VR&E and its benefits, call 1-800-827-1000. You can also apply for the program and learn more about on the organization’s website. visit the program’s website