Dozens of companies and organizations were represented at York College in Jamaica on Friday to help veterans find jobs and assist them in obtaining due benefits.
The Welcome Home the Troops event was hosted by the United Coalition for Veteran and Community Rights and Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), in conjunction with Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica) and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D- St. Albans).
The event was organized because of the serious issues veterans face when returning home from combat, such as high unemployment rates, financial burdens, physical disabilities, post traumatic stress disorder, the backlog of claims at the Veterans Administration and the difficulty of readjusting to civilian life.
The unemployment rate of veterans who were in combat since 2001 is 12.1 percent, while the unemployment rate of non veterans is 8.7 percent. Veterans also comprise between one-fifth and one-fourth of the homeless population in the United States.
This is a day to celebrate the vets, said Andrea Scarborough, wife of William Scarborough and member of the UCVCR. She said that she wanted to assist the veterans in finding better living conditions. About 25 to 30 companies were there for job support, including social services.
Representing the NYC Fire Department was John Rafferty of Engine 234, Ladder 123, Battalion 38 in Brooklyn. He said that close to 40 veterans stopped by, male and female. Rafferty provided information booklets and pamphlets on how to apply to become an Emergency Medical Service Emergency Medical Technician or an EMS Paramedic.
Barbara Morris, also a member of UCVCR, hosted a table at which veterans could sign up for treatment at St. Albans Veterans Hospital. She said that more than 25 veterans registered. Morris has been involved with veterans for more than seven decades, and recalled a time when she and her mother used to bake cakes and take them to the veterans hospital during World War II.
Jamaal Jones, a veteran from Iraq, said that he enjoyed the program. “The event is pretty good,” Jones said, “There are many opportunities for vets.”
A representative of the NYPD said that he spoke with about 40 or 50 veterans. He offered information about the civil service exam, which is available for people ages 17 1/2 to 35.
Edward Perry, minority veterans program coordinator at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, hosted a table and was supposed to conduct the veteran benefits workshop at the event.
Four workshops were meant to take place at the event: Job readiness, which teaches resume writing and interview techniques; veterans jobs bank, which teaches about the New York State Veteran’s Job Bank Law; veteran benefits, which teaches about compensation, pension, home loans, education dependency and survivor benefits and health administration and cemetery benefits; and social media for vets, which teaches veterans how to use the social media to help them find jobs.
The only workshop attended was social media for vets, but Perry was still able to provide the same information he would have at the workshop at his table.
He provided data on the application process, which benefits are available to them, and how to see these benefits online. He said that it was his job to advocate on the veterans’ behalf, especially for minorities and the elderly.
His outreach programs are targeting every community in Queens, and he hopes to achieve each of their goals by 2015. He plans to alleviate the backlog, increase veterans’ access to benefits and end veteran homelessness.
Down the aisle was Derek Gold, manager of local accounts at DeVry University. He was at the event to help veterans further their education by entering DeVry or the Keller Graduate School of Management. He stated that about 10 veterans came and four registered.
John Chichester, vice president of Vets HelpingVets and a member of UCVCR, helped organize the event. He said that his organization was there to help provide clothing to homeless vets and assist in filing for claims and due benefits from the city, state and federal governments.
He said that many veterans do not get called back after speaking to potential employers, which is extremely hard to overcome. “But we keep trying,” he said, “and we don’t give up.”
Navy veteran Felicia Parker represented the NYC Business Solutions veterans Career Center of Workforce 1. On July 9, Workforce 1 opened the doors to the Veterans Career Center, staffed by area veterans. The center is located in Manhattan at 60 Madison Ave., Suite 703. It offers job readiness and professional development workshops and referrals to veteran-serving organizations for additional supportive services.
Parker stated that she does one-on-one assessments at the center and that it also offers assistance in accessing education, training, and other veteran benefits. She also said that she spoke to about 50 or 60 veterans.
David Valentin, Queens County commander of the American Legion, has many goals for veterans. He said he wants St. Albans to increase its wellness program for women in the V.A. hospital and that he was trying to promote a women’s wellness specialty hospital. He also said that he saw about a dozen people at his table and that he was supplying Q & As for service members and veterans for disability claims.
Other veterans advocates who were at the event include Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach); Frank J. Dito, business development specialist and veterans affairs officer at the U.S. Small Business Administration; Stephen Smith, president of VetsHelpingVets; and Korean War veteran Corrine Alperi, one of the first women to ever serve in combat.
Sgt. Shakeya Spring, a veteran who was stationed in Ansbach, Germany, attended the event. “This is a great opportunity for vets,” she said, “especially for me because I came from overseas.”
She said that it was a good opportunity to see more of what is out there.
Andrea Scarborough said that plans are being made to hold the event again next year, possibly at a different location, where there is a stronger soldier and veteran presence.
The Queens Chronicle is also offering FREE situation wanted ads in their classified section to help our vets find jobs.