The other night my husband and I enjoyed “happy hour” with a retired teacher whose son had just returned from his second tour in Afghanistan. He served in military medical rescue where his activities included assisting triage physicians in surgery. He learned how to incubate patients and attend to emergencies that peace time hospital emergency staff only experience in responding to drive by shootings or tragic auto accidents.

It appears that none of this veteran’s experience translates to nursing or emergency response certifications. There are efforts now to change this.

On November 19th, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley welcomed more than 80 health care, government and military leaders to the War Memorial Building in Baltimore to discuss joint efforts to hire veterans, disabled veterans and military spouses into the health care workforce. The meeting was the second national summit for the Hero Health Hire program, which launched in June 2011 in Washington, D.C.

“Our ability in Maryland to grow forward is directly related to our ability to create jobs and expand opportunity – including expanding opportunity for those who have selflessly served our country,” said Governor O’Malley. “Our veterans do not ask for our thanks or special consideration. They just want the opportunity to compete and succeed in our global economy, and it’s our duty to secure the care they need, the benefits they’ve earned, and the job market they deserve when they come home.”

I would hope this includes military experience transfer into civilian licensing and certifications.

Maryland continues to put veterans first. The O’Malley-Brown Administration established the first Veterans Trust Fund to direct over $50,000 in financial assistance to veterans and their families; expanded the Veterans Service Program to reach out to record numbers of veterans to ensure they have access to benefits like health care claims and the G.I. Bill; committed more than $4.3 million over the past five years for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Scholarship Program and $6.9 million for the Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative; and provided $463,000 in no-interest small business loans for service disabled veteran business owners with another $300,000 in loans planned for this year.

Since its founding in 2011, 41 health care organizations have joined Hero Health Hire. These organizations collectively employ approximately one million employees, and combined, offer more than 12,600 worksites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Veterans can access job search resources available through the Hero Health Hire partner companies, as well as other information and tips at

“We’ve seen tremendous growth and support for Hero Health Hire in the past 16 months, and our network is getting stronger every day,” said René Lerer, M.D., chairman and CEO of Magellan Health Services and founder of the Hero Health Hire initiative. “The health care industry continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy. We are well equipped to recruit and support the brave men and women who have fought for our country, and we will help them build a bright future for themselves and their families. All of the Hero Health Hire partners believe that is our responsibility.”

Does this include giving military triage level responders some credit for their knowledge learned in the military?

“Our nation’s veterans possess some of the most desirable skills imaginable, with an emphasis on teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving and project management,” said Major General Elder Granger, M.D. (retired), honorary chairman of the Hero Health Hire advisory board. “Our country needs more employers – in every industry – that know what it takes to translate military skills into the workplace, and that support those men and women who have given as selflessly as they embark on the next chapters in their careers.”

“Our veterans have served our nation and now we need to make sure that jobs are there for them when they return,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. “The health care industry is growing and it needs qualified workers. The Hero Health Hire program is the right approach because it is working with health care companies to recruit and train veterans, wounded warriors and their spouses for jobs in the health care industry.”

“When I left the Marine Corps in 1970, six out of 10 top officers of the bank I joined had served in the military and they knew what veterans could bring to the organization. Today’s service members and veterans are not so fortunate,” said John R. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Warrior Care Policy. “Private sector efforts such as Hero Health Hire to train and hire service members and veterans are critical to their successful transition to productive civilian lives, and set an important example for other companies to follow.”

According to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veteran unemployment declined in October of 2012. However, one in 10 veterans who served post-9/11 is currently unemployed, compared to the 7.9 percent national average. Although it’s an improvement from the 12 percent unemployment for post-9/11 veterans the year prior, more must be done to ensure veterans can transition into the civilian workforce after military service.

“Obtaining a good job can make a huge difference in a person’s mental health and well being, so everything must be done to offer employment opportunities for those who have given so much for our country, ” said Pamela S. Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “It is particularly important that we make a special effort to recruit veterans in the behavioral health workforce since they provide a special insight into the needs of military members, veterans and their families.”

The November 23 summit focuses on two key components: the challenges and opportunities for veterans entering the civilian health care workforce, and the resources available to employers to help them recruit and support more veteran employees. The Hero Health Hire program acknowledges the gap veterans face in translating their military experience into transferrable skills for the civilian work environment, and provides resources for both veterans and employers to help overcome this obstacle. The program also encourages employers to create support initiatives once veterans have been hired to help ease the transition, such as establishing mentoring programs with other veteran employees and training sessions for hiring managers and organization leaders.

“All it takes is for one company to give one veteran a chance,” said Annert “Louie” Rivera, a wounded warrior hired by the Bobby Dodd Institute, a Hero Health Hire partner. “You have to move past your stereotypes and see the possibilities. Corporations just need to change their mindset. The only way that a veteran is going to get better is to get back to work and for companies to give them a chance to make a difference.”

Copyright TIGERS Success Series by Dianne Crampton

TIGERS Success Series helps leaders build teams of committed and engaged employees. TIGERS also certifies team building consultants in the use of TIGERS proprietary team development resources, which are royalty-free,  turn-key solutions that are compatible with other team building resources.