Alpha President Jon Mayhew and Connecticut Lieutenant Governonr Nancy Wyman

Why Hiring Veterans is Good for Business

Connecticut state leaders and private-sector employers gathered together at Alpha National Headquarters in Shelton, Connecticut on Monday, September 26 for a Hire Our Veterans Symposium to discuss why hiring veterans is good for business.

The event was organized and hosted by Alpha, a veterans disability advocacy group. Alpha  has a business model for hiring veterans recognized by state and local leaders as a business success. Over 90 percent of Alpha employees, many of whom are disabled, served in the military. These are veterans from all five branches of the military and who fought in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The event was timely in light of President Obama’s recent introduction of the American Jobs Act that includes a veterans jobs bill to provide more job-training programs for veterans and tax incentives for companies to hire veterans. It includes a “Returning Heroes” tax credit of $2,400 for every short-term hire and $4,800 for every long-term hire, and a Wounded Warriors tax credit that will increase existing tax credits for employers who hire veterans with service-connected disabilities.

Key Takeaways Discussed at the Symposium

1. Work Opportunity Tax Credit (federal) per Veteran Employee

All veterans
• $1,500 maximum for 120 hours of work
• $2,400 maximum for 400 hours of work

Disabled veterans
• $3,000 maximum for 120 hours of work
• $4,800 maximum for 400 hours of work

Veterans from families receiving Temporary Assistance benefits
• $9,000 for a two-year combined period

2. Wage and Training Subsidies for On-the-Job Training (OJT) from the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR & E)

• Veterans are hired at an apprenticeship wage and VR & E supplements the salary and pays for training tools until the veteran has successfully completed training
• VR & E can reimburse employers who hire veterans who have faced obstacles to employment up to 50 percent of a veteran’s salary for up to six months
• VR & E pays for accommodations in the work environment for disabled veterans

3. How to Create an On-the-Job Training Plan

4. Resources for Employers
• U.S. Department of Labor –Hiring Veterans
• Department of Veterans Affairs –Information for Employers

A lineup of ten distinguished speakers shared their views on hiring veterans, including State Senator Carlo Leone, Senate Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman. Key highlights are below:

Senator Carlo Leone Kicks Off the Symposium

Carlo Leone
CT Senator Carlo Leone, Chair, Veterans Affairs Committee

The kickoff speaker for the Alpha Hire Our Veterans Symposium was Connecticut State Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford, Darien) who also serves as Senate Chair of the General Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee. Senator Leone, a U.S. Air Force veteran, met Alpha Vice President Sean Libby at the Connecticut Stand Down in Rocky Hill, Connecticut this September. Leone told symposium attendees that veterans have discipline, are self-sufficient and know how to get the job done. He said veterans have skills that translate across the workforce and that “if you’re looking for workers, please hire veterans first. At the state level, we are working together to come up with ideas to spur job growth. Veterans are an elite force of workers that deserve a chance. I’m here for you [the employer] and for the veterans. It’s really an honor to come here today to support Alpha and all that they’re doing to promote what we all can do for veterans.”

Letter from Congressman Chris Murphy

Stephanie Podewell
Stephanie Podewell, District Aid to Congressman Chris Murphy

Stephanie Podewell, district aid to Congressman Chris Murphy representing the 5th district of Connecticut, spoke on behalf of the Congressman who could not attend. She shared a letter from the Congressman which, in part, said; “Thank you to Alpha Veterans Disability Advocates for organizing this symposium on the benefits of hiring the nation’s highly qualified heroes. Even though veterans are some of the best trained and most skilled Americans, there are one million unemployed. The rate is over 13 percent. As we continue to bring our service men and women home from Iraq and Afghanistan we have worked to change this statistic. I’m glad you have gathered to discuss making a difference. . . I recently conducted a survey of manufacturers in the state and almost all of them say that they either employ veterans or would seriously consider a veteran applicant. These men and women already possess the skills and disciplines required for these types of jobs especially in this time when some employers complain that skilled workers are hard to find . . .”

The Employer’s Perspective

Dave Lissy
Dave Lissy, CEO, Bright Horizons

Guest speaker, Dave Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons said, “We have this adage: ‘We hire for attitude and train for skill.’ We think about people who can develop a passion around their mission; who can work as a member of the team; who can get a job done towards a common goal. Veterans represent that in spades.”

Joe Berardo
Joe Berardo, CEO MagnaCare

Joe Berardo, CEO of MagnaCare, a healthcare network for employers, said that Alpha has “opened my eyes as an employer. There’s a whole population out there that, if we take a few extra steps and put a little effort to find them, we can have employees who can, quite frankly, help our company while we help them create lives that they are proud of, and that we’re proud of. “

Focus on the Positive: Companies are Hiring

Bill Purcell, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce
Bill Purcell, President, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce

Bill Purcell, president of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce  serving the Connecticut communities of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Oxford, Seymour and Shelton, said, “It is striking that there are one million unemployed veterans. That’s not acceptable. If we owe them anything it is to welcome them back home to productive employment . . . I’m encouraged by surveys of manufacturers who say they are doing it [hiring veterans] or intend to do it, but they are waiting for the economy to rebound. I say, stop it! You are the economy. So let’s get things moving today. We have to change the conversation. Focus on the positives in our state and region. Companies are hiring. . . Let’s focus on those stories. The real challenge is to make certain that opportunities are being created and skill sets of returning veterans are matched. Adapt their team-building, leadership, and hands-on skills and apply them to the private sector.  Companies are lean and mean and are trying to come up with unique and creative ways to expand their workforce and productivity. I’m going to learn today about financial incentives to hire veterans and share theses messages with my Chamber colleagues across the state, as well as local employers, that there are advantages, beyond the moral obligation, to hire a returning veteran. “

Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Visits Alpha Symposium

CT Lt.Governor Nancy Wyman
CT Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman

Half way through the speaker presentations, Connecticut’s Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman made a special guest appearance.  Lt. Governor Wyman has a record of many distinguished public-service accomplishments. Among them is what Alpha President Jon Mayhew (photo: left of Lt. Gov.) described as “closest to the hearts of those at Alpha.  In 2007 she sought private donations to create the Wall of Honor Tribute, an annual memorial ceremony in the state Capitol to the Connecticut men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

She called the Alpha Hire Our Veterans Symposium a great opportunity to bring businesses together to “talk about what is out there that would benefit your businesses and at the same time benefit our veterans. . . I went to the Stand Down in Rocky Hill. Seeing 900 veterans, some of them homeless, looking for jobs . . . we have to do something. . . As soon as we can get them working, then we don’t have to worry about homelessness. . . I just wanted to stop by and say thank you to Alpha and to all of you gathered here to show us what we can do to get our veterans working again . . .”

Alpha Business Model Puts Veterans Back to Work

Allen Gumpenberger
Allen Gumpenberger, Director, Alpha Disability Advocacy

Next on the agenda was Allen Gumpenberger, Alpha’s Directory of Disability Advocacy, who gave an overview of Alpha’s unique On the Job Training Program and how businesses can develop their own training program for their businesses. He said, “The unemployment rate among veterans is outrageous considering the sacrifices veterans have made and the incentives created to encourage employers to recruit and hire veterans. . . I can assure you that you won’t find a more dedicated and motivated group from which to recruit talent. Simply put, veterans make excellent employees . . . When we launched Alpha we made a commitment to employ veterans. We wanted to offer, not just jobs, but career opportunities for veterans, especially disabled veterans. In pursuit of this goal we partnered with the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs and together we created a new program to bring in veterans and train them to become independently accredited Veterans Disability Advocates. Today, we employ veterans from all five branches of the military that include veterans of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I have been privileged to see their work ethic, their camaraderie, and their commitment to help fellow veterans and drive Alpha’s mission forward.”                                                     

Where Veterans Can Go to Find a Job – How Employers Can Find Them

Jason Coppola
Jason Coppola, Veterans Employment Representative

“Not many people know about us,” said Jason Coppola, a veterans’ employment representative for the Connecticut Department of Labor. “We assist veterans who are unemployed, underemployed, or seeking career changes . . .” Coppola explained all the employment services available to veterans, from resumes to referrals, as well as a database available for employers to find skilled veterans to hire.  “We are passionate about what we do to help veterans. Some of them are here at Alpha,” said Coppola. “Let’s hire veterans into qualified positions and hopefully we’ll have a better economy.”

Alpha’s Apprenticeship Program

Paul Femia
Paul Femia, Dept. of Labor Office of Apprenticeship Training

Paul Femia, representative from the Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship Training, explained his role in helping Alpha develop its one-year veterans disability advocate training apprenticeship program.  “Alpha has grown into something big.  Alpha hired 17 new apprentices in 16 months. To put that in perspective, we have roughly 500 apprentices statewide and about 2,500 companies and unions. If we could get each of them to hire one apprentice a month, that would be 2,500 new hires. From someone who has been doing this [apprenticeship training] for over 20 years, that’s phenomenal growth.”

Kim Pignatiello Dept of Veterans Affairs
Kim Pignatiello, Employment Coordinator, Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Kim Pignatiello, Employment Coordinator for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said, “My job is to serve disabled veterans. Alpha Disability has hired quite a few of my clients. I thank any employer in this room who is hiring veterans. At least 20 percent of the veterans I work with are looking for jobs in the private sector. It is so important for me to touch base with you.” Pignatiello went on to explain how the VA accommodates employers and supports veterans.

Symposium a Great Success

The Alpha Hire Our Veterans Symposium gave attendees a very unique perspective on the many and varied benefits of hiring veterans, including incentives, tax credits, and resources for locating veterans.  Janna Rahnig, from the Adecco Group, an HR services group that helps people with work and career opportunities, called the Symposium “an incredible experience,” and left feeling invigorated with ideas on how her company can help connect veterans to jobs.

The Symposium concluded with speakers and attendees already looking forward to the next one.

Events of the Alpha Hire Our Veterans Symposium were reported in real-time on Alpha’s Twitter and Facebook pages

Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.