New program helps wounded vets get back on their feet
ServiceSource has been helping thousands of Americans with disabilities over the last 40 years with employment, training, rehabilitation, housing and other support services.
Now, they are doing their part to help wounded veterans returning home from the War on Terror with a new program, which has become a serious issue for the armed services.
According to a study conducted by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, approximately one in five soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
Warrior Bridge is a program designed to help those wounded veterans bridge the gap between the military and employment.
Mike Costanzo is a 90 percent disabled veteran and now is serving as the only employee with ServiceSource working on just Warrior Bridge.
Costanzo, a U.S. Army retired sergeant and a resident of Ashburn, has been working on Warrior Bridge since he was hired in September.
“Warrior Bridge started as a concept about two years ago down in Florida and it migrated up to North Carolina,” Costanzo said. “We received some funding [from the Bob Woodruff Foundation] over the summer to start a position here in Fairfax and I was hired in September.”
The program provides resume help, job searches, job placement, networking, peer support and help through the application process. Warrior Bridge also takes clothing donations to provide their clients with the proper attire to succeed in their new jobs.
Once he started, Costanzo began frequenting area Veterans Affairs organizations and facilities to develop relationships.
“What I have found is that a lot of companies have hiring initiatives, but there is no connection to veterans on the ground,” Costanzo said. “So I went out and and started developing relationships with the Martinsburg VA Hospital and the DC VA Hospital.”
As a disabled vet and someone with PTSD, Costanzo relates to these veterans and knows what they are going through.
“I have been in their shoes and when I was hired by CACI right out of the Army, I lasted six months because I would close the door to my office turn the lights off and hide and two months later I had done nothing,” Costanzo said. “With encouragement from my wife, I went to a PTSD program for 90 days. When I came out of that I was able to hit the ground running and I went to go work for a government contractor and was doing great.”
Costanzo noted he has wanted to work with wounded veterans since he left the military and now he is in a position to make a difference in each of their lives.
While ServiceSource employs more than 200 veteran employees across the organization, the Warrior Bridge Program in the D.C. metro area has served 19 veterans in the last month alone.
Costanzo has found putting veterans to work can be relatively easy, it’s keeping them working that can prove difficult.
“We are still working with our veterans and a lot of times it can be difficult because some guys disappear and some guys call five times a day,” Costanzo said. “Usually with those who are calling too much, there is an underlying issue and I have to identify it so I can deal with it before I put them to work. Otherwise, they could quit.”
Costanzo knows that employers are adamant about hiring veterans, but getting them to recognize veterans is the key.
“The military recruiters and big contractors will hire wounded warriors because they are like hounds when they get one,” Costanzo said. “They just don’t have the connections or the time to go out and find them and help them with their resume or getting their resume, but our network allows them to easily find those veterans they want so bad.”
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