RLF-supported research study published in Neuroradiology

A landmark scientific study has been published in the journal Neuroradiology, adding to the growing body of literature showing that blast waves are a source of traumatic brain injury in military personnel. “White matter microstructural abnormalities in blast-exposed combat veterans: accounting for potential pre-injury factors using consanguineous controls,” by Andrew C. McClelland, Roman Fleysher, Weiya Mu, and Michael L. Lipton, was accepted into the prestigious Springer-Verlag publication on July 30, 2018.

The paper resulted from a research project, “Brain Features of the Blast-Exposed Warrior,” conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine under lead investigator Michael Lipton, MD, PhD, and was supported by Resurrecting Lives Foundation. The study used Diffusion Tensor Imaging, a type of newer, more sensitive MRI, to diagnose TBI and define brain pathology from blasts. The study compared the brains of the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who had undergone exposure to blasts through improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to those of their age-matched siblings who had not been in combat or exposed, in order to rule out familial tendencies or traits.

Chrisanne Gordon, MD, founder and chair of RLF, and leader of the drive to collaborate with researchers, said, “We have the highest regard for Dr. Michael Lipton and his team from Einstein for their compassionate and respectful care of those undergoing these studies. Dr. Lipton displayed the intelligence to devise the study, the empathy to provide assistance to our vets and their families, the vision to work with the private sector, our veterans, and non-profit RLF, and the courage to publish a unique and challenging study at the time. We are all indebted to Dr. Lipton as a fearless scientist and physician and we are indebted to our young heroes and their families who participated.”

The scientific project was one of RLF’s first initiatives, and was a rallying point for fundraising for the organization. Major gifts were provided by a long list of generous donors, both individuals and organizations, and support and publicity came from many avenues. For advancing the cause in many ways and for being the instruments of change for our military members, veterans, and their families, RLF especially thanks our board members and supporters who provided funding, transportation, support, and awareness in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan.

Amvets Post #26, Mansfield, Ohio, provided a special donation to their brothers and sisters of the OIF/OEF conflicts; their annual “Rock and Roll Festivals” for many years collected the funding to send one third of the participant veterans, all from Ohio, to New York City for the study.

To all who have supported RLF efforts to date, we thank you. “But our special thanks,” said Dr. Gordon, “goes to all the study participants; thank you for your courage, your service, and your commitment to your brothers and sisters.”

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead

Resurrecting Lives Foundation’s focus on veteran employment

While the unemployment rate for all US military veterans continues to drop (currently hovering at 3.8%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS), the jobless rate for Gulf-War era II veterans is still higher, at 4.5%. The good news from this US BLS report: “Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in August 2017, little different from veterans with no disability.”

The not-so-good news: once employed, veterans move on from their jobs at high rates. Surveys in 2016 and 2014 found that more than 40% of employed veterans left their first post-separation jobs within 12 months.

Longer-term employment retention for veterans is still an issue. RLF is looking for keys to unlock that situation from multiple aspects.

Update on RLF Employment Initiative
–Skylar Burgess, RLF Board

Resurrecting Lives Foundation’s employment team is expanding our employment initiative and looking forward to moving quickly to establishing collaborations primarily in Ohio and Georgia. “We need to refine a couple of different models, one including discharge from National Guard or Reserve service, such as we have in Ohio, and a second to involve discharge from a military base, such as Ft. Gordon in Augusta, Georgia,” says RLF founder and chair Chrisanne Gordon, MD. We held a strategy session September 10th and have determined our stated goal is “Employ veterans for a continuous 12-month period.”

We have a two-pronged approach: 1) Engage potential employers and help them understand the needs of our veterans with TBI for both initial employment and retention; 2) Engage agencies that have access to veterans to be a pipeline for the employment initiative.

Several meetings have been held with a variety of potential sourcing agencies/groups for veteran hires. These include: The Ohio State University; Mayor’s office of the City of Columbus, Ohio; Mayor’s office of the City of Augusta, Georgia; US Department of Veterans Affairs; Ohio National Guard; Cardinal Health; Columbus (Ohio) State College; Traumatic Brain Injury clinic in the Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Center at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon (Georgia); Fast Switch, Ltd.

We have initiated a pilot program with Honda of America. We have been working with the above agencies to identify the unique qualifications for our primary partner, Honda. This initial pilot will help us determine how we might be able to work together to further enhance and expand opportunities for veterans. The success of this pilot will help us refine our approach and provide support to add additional employers to the mix. We will be revisiting Augusta in the near future to discuss starting a similar pilot with Fort Gordon’s TBI Clinic and the Mayor’s office.

Strategies to remain employed: Transcendental Meditation

One method for veterans to manage their lives in order to stay employed is by learning meditation. Corey O’Brien, a US Army and Ohio National Guard veteran with two tours of duty in Iraq behind him, and now a science teacher at Hamilton Township (Ohio) High School and Purple Star Liaison for Hamilton local schools, spoke about his experiences with Transcendental Meditation during the keynote address at the 2018 Cardinal Health RLF Golf Outing.

His teacher, David Kidd of Canton, Ohio, also a US Army E-5 veteran, is a champion. “Clearly, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique makes one more employable. Repeated studies have shown increased mental clarity, and improved emotional stability, self-actualization and energy. When combined with reduced alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and depression, it is clearly conducive to helping everyone have more staying power in anything they try to do. That was my experience in the 70’s after taking the TM training following two tours in Vietnam. It changed my life.”

Through a grant last fall from RLF, matched by a grant from the David Lynch Foundation, Kidd taught TM to 19 veterans and one of their wives, who was going through her third round of having cancer and treatments. All have provided positive feedback on the technique.

Key support from Cardinal Health

Key support from Cardinal Health

 

Resurrecting Lives Foundation is proud to have the support of Cardinal Health, long a supporter of veterans in the workplace and of the work of RLF. Awarded a Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in 2015, Cardinal Health sponsors an internal Veterans and Military Advocates Employee Resource Group, a free Veterans Professional Advancement Course for vets in the community, and many annual fundraisers for national and local veterans’ groups, including the Fisher House Foundation. In 2018, the Cardinal Health Foundation contributed funds to RLF for general operating expenses, and a strong team of volunteers organized the 3rd annual Cardinal Health RLF Golf Outing, raising more than $40,000 for RLF’s veteran programs.

From the Board:

Jon Giacomin

Jon Giacomin is Chief Executive Officer of the Medical segment at Cardinal Health. Giacomin currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Cardinal Health Foundation. He is the chairman of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance board of directors and a member of its executive committee and serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. He is a member of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation board of directors.

Honoring our Military Veterans

As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, I feel particularly privileged to be a leader at Cardinal Health, a company deeply committed to supporting the men and women who have served in the U.S. military. From assisting transitioning veterans to the civilian workplace, to providing training and development as veterans build their careers, to helping those in need, we are honored to serve those who have so bravely served our country.

Our support of veterans was recognized several years ago, when Cardinal Health was honored with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award—the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Those who have served in the military have values that can’t be taught—values like duty, honor and integrity. We know that veterans are mission-driven, and have the passion, commitment and leadership skills that make them invaluable in the workplace. We also know that it can be challenging to transition from the military to the corporate world. For all these reasons, we actively recruit and hire veterans, and encourage other employers to do the same.

Our recruiting team and our business leaders regularly attend events geared toward veteran recruitment and networking. We actively recruit veterans by posting positions on job boards for the military and returning veterans. Our company also participates in the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces.

For separated and soon-to-be separated service members and their spouses who are seeking employment, we offer a free Veterans Professional Advancement Course (VPAC). VPAC was created by veterans; it’s a professional development and mentoring program designed to provide the skills to successfully transition into the civilian workplace.

Supporting veterans through charitable organizations

Cardinal Health has an active Veterans and Military Advocates (VMA) employee resource group, for which I served as executive sponsor for many years. The VMA is an inclusive organization of our employees whose goal is to continue the spirit of service by supporting each other, the Cardinal Health mission and veteran causes in our communities.

Each year, the VMA hosts the Resurrecting Lives Foundation (RLF) Charity Golf Outing in Dublin, Ohio, with 100% of the proceeds going to RLF. The 3rd annual event, held in August 2018, raised more than $43,500. These dollars will have a significant impact in supporting the Foundation’s mission of “advocating for the successful transition to post-military career and life for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).”

The VMA also organizes Operation Support Our Heroes. During the first week of November each year, employees volunteer to create thousands of care packages for homeless veterans across the U.S. and we partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs to distribute the care packages. The group expects to fill 4,000 packages for homeless vets this year.

We also support Fisher House Foundation, an organization best known for Fisher Houses which provide a free home-away-from-home for the families of military people receiving care at nearby VA hospitals. This year, as part of its Operation Support Our Heroes, the VMA will be creating 4,800 of its care packages for eight Fisher Houses across the country.

Our customers and vendors also join us in supporting veterans causes. This year, during a variety of national meetings for employees and customers, they helped us raise nearly $310,000 for Fisher House—bringing our support for the organization since 2016 to more than $1 million.

As a company, we are better for the veterans we hire, and for the support we provide to those veterans in need. As a leader, I am better for it, too.

Exploring new worlds after the military

Learning to navigate new cultures and ways of operating. Trying to translate past experiences to a new norm. Forging a new sense of direction.

Characteristics of moving to a different country? Not a new country, but certainly a new state; these are veteran-defined attributes of transitioning out of the military and into civilian life and employment. Add in other variables, like traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress, and the path forward becomes even more difficult.
Unemployment rates for all US veterans have dropped significantly, from about 9% in 2010 to around 3.8% in 2018.
Still, military members getting ready to transition are sometimes stymied at how to move on. In the Columbus, Ohio area, a group of veterans and supporters gathered together recently to network and share lessons learned. Organized by US Army Sgt. (Veteran) Mike Fine, now Director of Military Employment and Strategy at Fast Switch, Ltd., the group aims to meet quarterly to keep finding ways to improve the job-seeking – and retaining – situation for local vets.

What drives their passion

Representing Columbus-area IT and health care companies, banking, and employment support groups, those assembled are passionate about helping veterans to make a smooth transition. Most of them are veterans themselves.

“Twenty years ago I had a very difficult transition myself and for the first year all I thought about was going back in the Army, as I had no support or fellow veterans to talk to or bounce concerns off of,” said Fine. “After weathering the storm, I knew I needed to ensure any veteran coming after me should not experience the same difficulties or frustrations I did. I started putting together courses at the companies I was working for to assist them in understanding best practices in managing the military talent pool, thus resulting in a better on-boarding, day-to-day work experience and retention for the transitioning veteran.”

“When I left active duty in 1991,” explains Kevin Gadd, CMsgt (retired), USAF/Air National Guard, “I realized very quickly that the things I had done as a communications specialist in the Air Force did not translate at all to the growing world of technology at the time.” He went back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree, acquired a computer, and “started ripping it apart and learning all I could so my skills matched my years of technology experience.” Gadd is now the Ohio Program Manager for a unique organization called Apprenti, which matches minorities, women, and veterans with apprenticeships in the technology industry. “As a retired Air Force/Air National Guard Chief with a lot of business experience, I was looking to use my skills in a nonprofit leadership role helping veterans that might not be as fortunate as I have been. Serving others is a key component of my life and I get to fulfill that in this role. “

Fine added, “I do this because of my past transitioning experiences and to fill the gap of the employer’s lack of education on the value of the transitioning veteran and their capabilities in the private sector. I view things a bit differently than most; I think about the real reason a veteran is seeking quality employment and that is to put a roof over their family’s head and food on the table; this is what drives me every day.”

Transitioning from the military, especially after many years, can be unsettling at best. Colonel Ben C. Capriato, Jr., US Army, (Ret.), and now Vice President, Military Program Leader, Customer Advocacy, at Huntington National Bank, described the difficulties he faced when moving to private employment. “First, I needed to learn how to navigate and implement ideas within the culture and processes of the new company. I found myself trying to navigate the new company like I navigated the military. Both have different cultures and processes. The second item was trying to explain my experience and equate it to the ‘new’ industry. I had to learn how to do a lot of translation and learn civilian terms. It is hard to get your head out of the military after 30 years. Third, the need for a sense of purpose. I needed to find something that allowed me to continue to have the ability to serve and give back to my community. Still being able to help service members is what I like best about my role at Huntington.”

Pictured Above -Chrisanne Gordon, MD, RLF founder and chair (left), with Mike Fine, Director of Military Employment and Strategy at Fast Switch, Ltd., at a recent Veteran Community Lunch in Dublin, Ohio

But not everyone in the group saw active duty. Liddy Heath, Director, Patient Recovery Program Office, Cardinal Health, is a member of Cardinal’s Veterans Employment Resource Group. “I know that my existence is extremely comfortable. I work very hard for my livelihood and the benefits I achieve, and I do that from a safe perspective. As I have gotten to know more men and women over the years who served, put themselves in harm’s way, and emerged from that to forge a new path for themselves, I always have been inspired and humbled by them. I finally began exploring the inspiration side of my reactions to learn how I can help and give back to them. Once I discovered some of the people and options available at Cardinal Health, I threw myself into it.”

Resources available to transitioning vets seeking employment…

More and more, there are plentiful resources available to assist in the transition, especially in gaining employment. Says Capriato, “Through my network, I have become active in supporting veterans find jobs, supported panel and round table discussions, and courses like Veterans Professional Advancement Course (VPAC) conducted by Cardinal Health and the Military Transitioning Assistance Course (MTAC) provided by Fast Switch.”

Apprenti’s Gadd says, “There are so many organizations like mine right now to help veterans looking for careers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and seek out organizations like Apprenti, Bunker Labs, Team RWB, HireHeroes USA, and others that really care and are here to help the veteran. I am constantly amazed at how many organizations there are now because there really was not a lot back when I transitioned in 1991.”

Jeff Young, known as The LinkedIn Guru, who offers training on LinkedIn for free, emphasizes the value of this tool for those seeking employment in today’s world, pointing out that the company offers one free year of LinkedIn premium membership to veterans and their spouses. “Make sure you are just as well prepared on LinkedIn as you would be with your resume,” he says. And for those on the civilian side, “Act as a mentor to someone you know who is a veteran who is transitioning into the private sector.”

Websites abound for job-seekers; even Google has developed some searching tools that help the effort, focusing search terms on “jobs for veterans.” Other innovative internet resources include the Military Skills Translator + Personality Assessment at Military.com and a full rundown of best jobs, along with employment details and pay scales, at GIJobs.com.

A growing roster of employers have created internal teams to support veterans employed there, and to help develop company veteran policy, as mentioned above by Fast Switch’s Fine and Cardinal Health’s Heath.

What can employers do more of?

The employment picture for separating veterans has dramatically improved, but is far from perfect. The group offered some advice for employers.

“I think it is important to understand the military culture and mindset of those who served,” says Capriato. “Understand that the veteran, especially the newly transitioned, will not have specific industry experience, but the veteran will have unique skills and the aptitude to learn their new role quickly. In the military, a service member rarely has experience in the role they are picked to fill.”
Fine agrees. “The biggest gap I see currently is employer education on the veteran talent pool.” He also points out that employers should hire “an established, proven and passionate military leader to run their Military and Veterans Affairs initiative. I often see employers hire non-veterans to run these initiatives; this needs to have a leader with direct experience to be able to truly relate to the struggles of a transitioning veteran. A company needs to have their C-Suite team to be invested in this initiative as well to ensure this is properly supported and funded.”

“Set clear expectations that take into account the point of view of a veteran,” says Heath. “There are many HR programs I see at large companies that are built to attract the 23- to 29-year old set. If companies are willing to expend that energy, taking even a small amount of energy to develop programs or expectations for veterans would go a long way and access a group of people with profound sets of skills that present a different value proposition and potentially higher return, particularly in experienced people managers.”
“Any employer with openings in good jobs is a perfect fit for hiring veterans,” says Gadd. “If there are already veterans working there, that would be helpful. It would also be helpful if they have leaders that understand the unique situations that can arise, especially with Guard and Reserve members. Know the laws pertaining to veterans, Guard and Reserves, including your tax benefits for hiring veterans. And take advantage of the unique leadership skills and attention to detail that most veterans bring to the organization.”

Good advice from the Columbus team:
What do you want veterans to know as they prepare for transitioning?

• Take time off to decompress
• Establish a network of veterans (they will introduce you to others for support and employment opportunities)
• Network, network, network (every opportunity is a networking opportunity)
• Remove military terms and acronyms from your lexicon and resume
• Continue to network after you start your new job within your new company
• You are never “fully” transitioned or out of the military because of the inculcation of the culture that is focused on throughout your time in the service.
• Just because you are out of the military, it does not mean you forget the values and ethical standards that where instilled in you; it is what sets you apart from everyone else and you are paving the way for those who will follow you.
• Do your homework and really get to understand the culture and climate of the company you want to work at and understand how you will contribute to the team effort.
• Use every resource available to you to increase your awareness, hone your interview/ interactive skills, and create a network to support you
• When you get the chance to interview, have a concise and articulate message about your 5 – 10 year vision for yourself; it will set you apart.
• Start at least 6-12 months out at a minimum before the date when you want to start work and begin building your network pipeline
• Develop several versions of your resume based on existing roles that align with your career goals, so when it is time to officially apply, you are way ahead of the game.
• Networking is the key in this day and age
• Finding a great, responsive mentor is critical as well. It’s about quality mentors not quantity.