America’s Heroes at Work is a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) initiative that helps veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) succeed in the workplace. TBI and PTSD have been called the “signature” injuries of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by many accounts, hundreds of thousands of returning service members experience these often “invisible” wounds of war as they transition to civilian life. With these realities in mind, America’s Heroes at Work equips employers and the workforce development system with the tools and technical assistance needed to support employees with TBI and/or PTSD.
Concepts was a leading force behind the development of America’s Heroes at Work, which was launched in 2008 to educate employers on accommodations for disabled veterans. After extensive research and strategy meetings with Veterans Service Organizations, disability advocacy groups, military service branches, workforce development agencies and the federal government, Concepts helped create a variety of educational tools and resources all housed on the award-winning website, www.americasheroesatwork.gov. In-person trainings and presentations were also conducted to inform human resources professionals, hiring managers and front line supervisors about TBI and PTSD and how employment plays a vital role in the recovery of wounded warriors.
Based on the success of America’s Heroes at Work, Concepts was asked to assist DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) in implementing an Employment Pilot project starting in January 2009. The two-year pilot project explored individual employment experiences of veterans with disclosed TBI and/or PTSD in order to disseminate promising practices related to the successful employment, accommodation and retention of veterans with those diagnoses.
Concepts supported all aspects of this “learning lab,” including coordination among workforce development professionals and a steering committee comprised of representatives from key federal agency partners. Efforts were focused on providing quality resources and support to participating veterans and employers, monitoring workplace performance, assessing placements, identifying key findings and developing recommendations for sustainability and potential replication. Based on feedback received from employers, Concepts also produced an online Veterans Hiring Toolkit to provide employment-related information in one place.