Len Woodard (pictured above) missed the camaraderie of the Marine Corps and struggled after transitioning. Though he was a skilled welder by trade, he wished to pursue different employment due to the lack of stability in his then-current field.
VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services’ Transitional Work (TW) Program provides services for Veterans, like Woodard, whose lives have been disrupted by mental illness or physical disabilities.
Many Veterans benefit from a supportive, stable and structured approach to vocational and employment related goals through community-based or medical facility therapeutic work assignments. Woodard received a referral to the program in 2020.
14 weeks of vocational development
In addition to a hands-on therapeutic work assignment, each Veteran also receives 14 weeks of vocational development, provided by the Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist at the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center.
In the program, Woodard learned how to develop a good resume for different types of employment, including for jobs in the community versus the federal government, and he even learned proper interview techniques, boosting his confidence.
Woodard began with the Environmental Management Service’s laundry room. Along with his therapy, he was able to begin building the skills needed to appropriately interact with his co-workers.
Most important to him was being around “other Veterans who knew and understood what I was going through.,” he said. “It is nice knowing that others could understand it because they have been there too.”
Woodard’s organizational skills contributed not only to his success in the TW program but success in his work assignment. He received praise from his worksite supervisors on later secured full-time employment when the service was authorized additional positions.
“Worth it for me and my family”
Woodard reflected on his new transition and compared where he came from to where is now. He hopes the impact of his story can reach others to think about participating in the program, to just give it a chance.
“Looking back at my participation, I was a little concerned about finding employment that was monetarily close to what I made before, but then I realized after participating for a while, money is not what it is all about,” he said. “I have vacation time now, sick leave, and a steady, stable income. The trade off from making really good money as a welder and working as a federal employee was well worth the tradeoff for me and my family.”
Rick Hickman is a vocational rehabilitation specialist for the Huntington VA Medical Center.