By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2011 — A new program called Hero Health Hire is the health care industry’s commitment to make jobs available to some of the 10,000 wounded warriors who transition each month from the military into the workforce.
The 2011 Hero Health Hire Employment Summit, held here today, brought together senior government officials and military leaders, federal and local legislators, and health care industry representatives.
Attendees discussed recruiting practices for veterans and wounded warriors, challenges for those transitioning into the civilian workforce, support that wounded vets and employers need for their efforts, and best practices and next steps for instituting hiring and retention processes at participating companies.
“We’re talking about an extraordinary group of young men and women,” John R. Campbell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy, told summit attendees.
Campbell, a Vietnam vet who worked in the private sector on global economic issues before joining the Defense Department, said the men and women transitioning from the armed forces have skills that range from leadership and warfighting to community integration, political activism, international relations and logistics.
“If we don’t employ them we are not going to be able to compete globally,” Campbell said. “To me, this is a national security issue.”
“We need to bring every element,” he added, “every asset to bear to make sure we can compete among some very formidable competitors around the world.”
The unemployment rate for younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is at about 30 percent, Campbell noted. “We have an exciting challenge ahead of us,” he said.
The Defense Department, he said, is working closely with the departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs to “create better programs so that we’re able to provide [jobs for] these young men and women who are truly spectacular.”
Hero Health Hire, sponsored by Magellan Health Services, encourages health care employers to recruit wounded warriors and helps them to provide a welcoming workplace, the initiative’s website says.
The initiative offers a tailored mentoring program to help new employees succeed at their jobs, with special attention to former service members who have lingering issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
“With tonight’s speech by the president announcing troop withdrawals, we’re here at a great time,” Dr. Rene Lerer, chairman and chief executive officer of Magellan Health Services, told the attendees.
Participating in the summit were representatives from 25 different health care companies and associations from all over the country, Lerer said, “Collectively employing in excess of 300,000 employees and serving tens of millions of members, customers and patients.”
Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis also attended the summit. “I am very excited to see all of you here,” she said. “The mental health services providers, because you play an essential role here, insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, device makers. You are the appropriate people to be at the table to help us begin this discussion.”
The health care industry — including insurers, health plans, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers and hospital networks — is one of the fastest growing in the nation. Last year alone, the United States created well over 360,000 jobs in the health care industry, Solis said.
“The Bureau of Labor statistics says that by 2018 there’s going to be a projected 4 million jobs added in the health care industry,” she said. “So I can see a good future for the health care industry and our veterans.”