The DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a fantastic organization that supports the military community. If you would benefit, or if you know of someone you served with who would - please share this episode with them. Jeff and I discuss the purpose and resources of the DAV. We also talk about volunteering, and about meeting a Veterans need for both purpose and connection after one’s military service. We talk about understanding your pension and military benefits, as well as the DAV’s new program around employment, which helps vets and their family secure meaningful employment.
Jeff Hall is the National Employment Director at DAV (Disabled American Veterans), a nonprofit that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families. Every year, the DAV helps more than 1 million veterans by helping them access benefits they earned, like healthcare, education and disability, and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities. Jeff started out in the Army, where he served in the Infantry and is a Combat Wounded Veteran. He has worked at the DAV since 1993.
- StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
- Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books
- http://jobs.dav.org - lots of great info here for Veterans: Companies the DAV works with, job search boards, hiring guide for employers, career fair (both in-person and virtual events)
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from Cold Spring, KY is Jeff Hall. Jeff Hall is the National Employment Director at DAV (Disabled American Veterans), a nonprofit that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families. Every year, the DAV helps more than 1 million veterans by helping them access benefits they earned, like healthcare, education and disability, and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities. Jeff started out in the Army, where he served in the Infantry and is a Combat Wounded Veteran. He has worked at the DAV since 1993.
What would you want people to know about the work the DAV does?
I was wounded in the Gulf War. When I got back home, there was someone that told me to get in touch with the DAV. I didn’t really know what the DAV did but I knew it was a veteran organization. I gained a little bit of insight but never dreamt that I would engage in a career with the DAV. It wasn’t until I had separated out of the military and moved home to Indiana that I got in contact with DAV for some assistance with my VA claim. If it wasn’t for contacting the local representative at that time, I may never would have received a lot of information that I needed. So that started a cascade for me in which I learned a lot about the DAV and the services it provides. In 2020, we’ll be celebrating our 100th anniversary. Each year our service program provides free advice to veterans with their disability claims amongst other services.
We also have volunteers across the country that provide free transportation to veterans going to medical appointments. We also save the government over $40M a year with the services we provide to veterans. We encourage anyone interested in volunteering to go to www.dav.org to sign up.
We also have a national advocacy program. We have a huge voice on Capitol Hill. We testify before Congress on a variety of veteran related benefits.
Most recently in 2014, we launched our national employment program. We started it here in Cold Spring. The mission is to help veterans and their families to gain meaningful employment. Not everyone getting get out of the military are entitled or want various benefits. Yet almost everyone is looking for their next career opportunity when they get out. So we have online help and resources for veterans. We also have a guide for employers on hiring and retaining disabled veterans. We also have a full career fair schedule. We co-sponsor about 250 career fairs each year - both virtual and in person.
What are common challenges veterans face after leaving the military?
Admittedly my background is not in employment. But I did a quick case study in which I talked to a variety of veterans and employers. When you have over 250,000 separating from the military each year, the vast majority of those people are going into a new career. So getting a good job that will allow you to provide for your family is key. The military transition program is better than when I got out in 1992 but there is still more work to be done.
There’s so much information out there thanks to the internet. It can be overwhelming. It’s hard to pick a particular path to follow. So we trying to keep our resources very straightforward as not to overwhelm veterans. We help connect veterans to Military Connection. They have great tools on their website. You can link to them from the Jobs page on our website. We try to connect veterans with the resource that will best assist them.
The biggest challenges is veterans themselves. Some are extremely over-prepared or underprepared for the transition. I see some veterans come to our career fairs wearing shorts and a t-shirt. So there’s a disconnect here. When I got out, it was a medical situation. I got orders and had to get off the military base within five days. I wasn’t planning on getting out or getting injured. But in general, I think people would benefit greatly for preparing to get out as soon as they get in. You’re not going to be in the military forever. You will transition at some point.
I like that idea of really preparing yourself for the transition.
To be fair too, the government needs to be a better job with transitioning veterans. I testified before Congress on this topic. I grew up in a farm community and graduated from high school and then went to college. After that I wanted to serve in the military. But I didn’t really know anything about being in the military. But that’s what basic training is for. Eight weeks later, you’re marching and talking like someone in the military. After basic training, I also went to some more advanced training. So it was about 15 weeks before I finally arrived at my first duty station. So when I was testifying before Congress, I told them that it was my opinion that the transition assistance program should be longer. If it took me 15 weeks to make me into what you considered an adequate soldier, why would you only give me one week to get me ready to leave? We owe the men and women of our military better than that.
How can military members and veterans learn more about the disability claim compensation process?
It’s a very common question and it wasn’t something I was familiar with during my own transition. I only started learning about it when I made contact with my local DAV representative.
I’ve been with DAV for 25 years now so I am familiar with the training our case workers go through - it is an 18 month process. So they are extremely well prepared to help veterans with their disability claim cases. I would advise veterans not to represent themselves. Get somebody like a national service officer with the DAV to help you. We also have transition officers on most military bases. Or, you can go to www.dav.org and find the service officer that is nearest to you. They will be able to help you with any question you need to ask. It’s completely free. The largest mistake veterans make is not taking advantage of this.
Make sure you have an eBenefits account. We can do everything with you electronically so you don't even have to come into our offices.
What’s the easiest way to get this process started?
The easiest way is just to reach out to DAV. We have members of all generations. If you go to a VA hospital, we almost always have an office there. They are a starting point but eventually you’ll also want to talk to a service officer as well.
How can people get involved in volunteering with DAV?
We have volunteers of all backgrounds. Our volunteer program is growing immensely. There’s so many people out there that want to give back. We realized we were missing a lot of those people. So we wanted to create an easy registration on our website that would allow volunteers an easy way to get to us. Getting involved with us is easier than you think. You certainly don’t have to be a veteran, just someone that is interested in helping military veterans.
Volunteering gives you a great sense of purpose. When you don’t have that, a lot of other things can creep in. There’s just some inherently good about helping other people. One of the most inspiring people involved in DAV is Dave Reilly. He was our National Commander in 2016. He is a former organization commander. He was a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer but contracted a bacterial infection and had to have his legs and arms amputated. Instead of letting that define him, he instead chose to give back and volunteer with our organization.
Anyone interested in volunteering should go to www.dav.org.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?
I really appreciate the opportunity to help get our name out there. There’s really no way to cover in one podcast all that DAV does to care for our nation’s veterans and their families. If you are active duty or veteran, there very well may be a way we can assist you with one of the services we provide.
Our DAV Commander’s Action Network is easy to sign up for and allows you to get involved in all that we’re doing on Capitol Hill to fight for veterans. If we don’t engage with our lawmakers, we’re going to face a situation where lawmakers are making decisions without us that don’t necessarily benefit us.