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PAVE The Way

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2014

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Paving Access for Veteran Employment is helping veterans with SCI find jobs.

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Every October, the Department of Labor celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The campaign raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Its roots go back to 1945 when injured service members returned home from World War II and sought to rejoin the workforce.

While recovering from a broken neck in 1991, going back to work wasn’t part of my rehabilitation. Regardless, defying expectation as a newly paralyzed veteran, I went to work for the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) Cal-Diego Chapter and the University of California-San Diego.

Despite my initiative to go back to work, I was uninformed. As a result, I lost my Medicare coverage and was forced to refund the cash benefits I received from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because my income exceeded the allowed limits. After much frustration, I weighed my options and quit both jobs.

Loss of SSDI benefits usually tops the list of why veterans don’t want to return to work. SSDI has provided some stability for people like us because the federal government, and society for that matter, assumes we can’t obtain gainful employment because of our disability. Unfortunately, a well-intended program has become a barrier to achieving economic self-sufficiency.

The truth is many disabled veterans want to return to work. But they’ll only take that chance if the transition to employment includes assurances their economic stability (monthly cash benefits, Medicare, etc.) won’t be jeopardized.

Understanding the unique challenges faced by severely disabled veterans who simply want an opportunity to prove themselves, PVA took the initiative by creating a one-of-a-kind program that is a step above and beyond traditional vocational rehabilitation models.

Paving Access for Veteran Employment (PAVE), provides one-on-one career counseling and assistance to hard-to-place veterans, their families and caregivers. With offices in every Department of Veterans Affairs spinal-cord injury center, PAVE reaches out to all vets who are seeking to transition to civilian employment, return to school or start a business.

All services, including resume help, interview preparation and employer-networking are provided at no charge. Whether you’re a job seeker or know someone who is, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Call a PVA National Service Officer (NSO) and let them know you want to learn about employment assistance. If, after speaking with the NSO, you want to pursue a career or want to see what it’ll take to get a job, you’ll be connected with a PAVE counselor.

2. Once your PAVE counselor has a chance to meet with you, you’ll get a comprehensive assessment of your needs, goals, etc., which will comprise your Individual Work Plan. The plan is the first step to helping you become vocationally self-sufficient and eventually expanding your quality of life beyond what Social Security can offer.

3. For Social Security beneficiaries, the Individual Work Plan is the gateway to a program called Ticket to Work (ssa.gov/work). The Ticket to Work program lets you test your ability to work for at least nine months while still receiving Social Security benefits. It lets you explore whether going back to work serves as a better option than collecting benefits.

The Ticket to Work program is a risk-free, win-win option. Your PAVE counselor will be at your side every step of the way.

So far this year, more than 550 people have been served through PAVE. Participants have been placed in rewarding vocational activities, internships, entrepreneurships and jobs at an average salary of more than $43,000.

Set the course for achieving your highest potential by learning more about PAVE and contacting a PVA service officer today.

For more information, visit operationpave.org.

 

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