U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs | www.va.gov | www4.va.gov/vecs |
Published in the March/April 2010 issue of print Search & Employ® |
For a United States veteran few post-military service jobs come with more honor and dignity than one that aids a fellow veteran. The former service member knows that he is helping someone who was also in the trenches, flying in the planes or serving aboard a ship. Those are the kinds of jobs available in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The establishment of the Veterans Administration came in 1930 when Congress authorized the President to “consolidate and coordinate government activities affecting war veterans.” VA health care facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative care. The responsibilities and benefits programs of the Veterans Administration grew enormously during the following six decades. World War II resulted in not only a vast increase in the veteran population, but also in many new benefits enacted by the Congress for veterans of the war. The World War II GI Bill, signed into law on June 22, 1944, is said to have had more impact on the American way of life than any law since the Homestead Act went more than a century ago.
In 1973, the Veterans Administration assumed another major responsibility when the National Cemetery System (with the exception of Arlington National Cemetery) was transferred to the Veterans Administration from the Department of the Army. The agency was charged with the operation of the National Cemetery System, including the marking of graves of all persons in national and state cemeteries (and the graves of veterans in private cemeteries, upon request), as well and administering the State Cemetery Grants Program.
Dennis May, the director of the Veterans Employment Coordination Service, just one section of the VA, takes pride in where he works because he is a veteran. “It means a lot to me that I play a role in helping to take care of my fellow veterans,” said May, who retired as a colonel after 26 years in the Air Force. “At the VA we’re here to help our veterans, eligible dependents and survivors. A lot of people think about us when it comes to the medical side, but we also handle benefits administration, disability compensation, education benefits, and funeral services, as well as overseeing 131 cemeteries.”
May said that with such a wide-ranging mission, the VA needs a diverse group of employees. The organization needs attorneys, accountants, IT personnel, and HR managers. “With all the different skill sets represented in the military, it’s definitely possible to find something in the VA for just about every military occupational specialty,” May said. “We’re so much more than medical jobs.”
He noted that not all the jobs are located in the Washington, D.C. area. There are also nine regions across the country with 150 medical centers and 80 outpatient clinics. Nearly 300,000 employees work for the VA, and about 30 percent of those are veterans.
That is a number that May hopes to increase. “My job is to attract the best and brightest veterans to work at the VA, because we believe they will do the best job in supporting their fellow veterans,” May said.
But May does not want veterans just because they once put on a uniform and learned how to salute. “We not only like to hire veterans because they have been in the military and know the language, but also because we are interested in the same things that made them good soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coasties,” May said. “Those are the core values that go hand-in-hand with each service: integrity, commitment to excellence, dedication to duty and seeing a job through to its conclusion. We know that they will be the right people to take care of our fellow veterans.”
May also noted that the recent emphasis on hiring veterans has made it easier – and sometimes faster – to get vets into federal jobs. “The idea that it has to take a long time to get a federal job has changed in most cases if you are a qualified veteran,” May said. “One employee was even hired on the spot and was in the office in three weeks.”
With his job geared to hiring veterans and his own military experience, it is no surprise that May wants vets to be treated the right way. “It’s not a client and it’s not a customer,” he said. “It’s a fellow veteran and we treat each of them with the respect they deserve. We want them to find success.”