Tia Christopher – A Champion For Change

On Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, the White House honored fourteen women Veterans as “Champions of Change”. One of those champions is Tia Christopher, a proud US Navy Veteran.

In 2001, Ms. Christopher began training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, studying to be a naval cryptologist. Her dream of serving her country was marred when Tia became a victim of military sexual trauma and was raped by a fellow sailor.  As a result of this violent attack, Christopher suffered from PTSD, experiencing intense fear, helplessness and horror. She discovered that it is not easy to report a rape. The DOD reported that in 2011, only 13.5% of survivors reported their assaults.

Christopher has come a long way since she was honorably discharged in 2002, and she is doing what she can to help other victims. In addition to speaking nationally on issues facing women veterans and veterans in transition, Ms. Christopher testified before Congress last year. She has been an advocate for exposing military sexual trauma, and volunteers as a clinician instructor for those working with military survivors.  For the last two years, Congress has been pushing the VA to respond to the special needs of women veterans including dealing with military sexual trauma.

Ms. Christopher is currently serving as the Chief of Staff for the Farmer Veteran Coalition in Davis, California. The Farmer Veteran Coalition mobilizes Veterans to feed America, and they are cultivating a new generation of farmers and food leaders. The Farmer Veteran Coalition also develops viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. Prior to her current post, Christopher served as the first Women Veteran Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. This position was created to respond to the specific needs of the fastest growing segment of the U.S. Veteran population: women.

Today Tia is doing well, and credits her VA referred female therapist for the progress. Ms. Christopher is the author of “You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are: A Straightforward Transition Manual” written to help Veterans transition from military to civilian life. The Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative.

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As a tribute to women Veterans, Military Connection will be profiling each of the honorees of the Champions Of Change Award.  These ladies are awesome and we salute them.

A Compelling Case for Hiring Veterans

In spite of general economic trends, health care is one of our nation’s strongest growth industries. There are a number of reasons for this growth; among them, the aging of our population, health care reform, and the increased survival rates for severely ill and injured patients. One of the big questions faced by healthcare recruiters is whether or not you will be able to meet the escalating demand. The difficulty of your situation is acknowledged. Healthcare professionals in the military and veteran communities number in the tens of thousands.  Those who serve our country are responsible, disciplined, possess tremendous leadership skills and cover a wide variety of specialties.  So how do you, the healthcare recruiter, reach this richly diverse audience, and what challenges will you face? Moreover, what strategies can you utilize to overcome these challenges?

One of the main obstacles facing the average veteran who is looking for a civilian opportunity is the confusion as to how their skill set translates, i.e. deciphering the acronyms that make up veterans’ experience. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is working to align accreditation requirements for nursing and physician assistant programs with enlisted medical training.  This is so medics and corpsmen can receive academic credit for their military health care service. The Veterans Administration currently provides clinical education for approximately 100,000 health professional trainees annually, including students from more than 600 schools of nursing. The Veterans Administration is the nation’s largest provider of graduate medical education and a major contributor to medical and scientific research.

Another obstacle is the potential for PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, now often referred to as PTS, Post Traumatic Syndrome. Although statistically quoted at approximately 16%, the figure runs much lower for healthcare professionals, who see life threatening illnesses and catastrophic injuries on a daily basis.

The remaining challenge is addressing the discipline and rigor of military experience and its rigid structure, which is conducive to brevity, directness and discipline, and may be at odds with the civilian healthcare environment. The important points to keep in mind are what these professionals bring to the table:

  • Military veterans bring a strong sense of responsibility to their work.
  • Military veterans work extremely well under pressure.
  • Military veterans see a task through to completion.
  • Military veterans possess strong leadership skills.
  • Military veterans possess a high degree of professionalism.
  • Military veterans possess problem-solving skills.

To address these issues, employers will need to do more to educate themselves about military culture. The payoff for these efforts is the ability to meet healthcare staffing needs with our nation’s best and brightest. As technology changes and advances, the need for healthcare workers who possess the most up-to-date skillset increases. Some of the best trained healthcare workers come from the military. With state of the art, technologically advanced breakthroughs in treatment, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of casualties, but at the same time, the statistics of those requiring ongoing medical treatment has dramatically increased. Starting at the top, there has been a years-long shortage of physicians and surgeons. This shortage taxes the entire healthcare system, as much of the burden of care then transfers down the line to nurses, physician assistants, therapists and home health aides.

Military service attracts many experienced healthcare professionals as well as those who want to become nurses, physicians and allied health professionals. Those who serve our nation have the right mind-set to care for others. They are also often motivated by the superior education benefits and/or the forgiveness of their student loans.  Military and veteran hospitals face recruitment and retention challenges too, but they are different from those in the civilian world.  Military and government service can be a rotating door.  Many who have reached their goals and completed their obligations separate from military service. Guard & Reservists who have been activated for a specific term will complete their activation term and return to civilian life, often wanting something different from the civilian healthcare position they had prior to being called to duty.   Government healthcare professionals can attain full retirement at a fairly young age and desire to move to a second career in the private sector earning a second retirement.

Candidates from the military and veteran communities are highly viable and make exceptional employees for our nation’s hospitals.   Employers will gain valuable employees and it is the right thing to do.  In November of last year, the President signed into law the VOW To Hire Heroes Act.  This law provides tax credits for hiring Veterans.  The tax incentives vary from a minimum of $2,400 to as much as $9,600 per hire.  These factors make a compelling case for your organization to recruit and hire Veterans.

We can help you achieve this goal.  MilitaryConnection.com is known for connecting military healthcare professionals in all disciplines with outstanding civilian and government jobs.  We also work with Transition Officers, Vocational Officers and Veteran Service Officers nationwide. We focus on providing a multitude of resources for healthcare professionals including but not limited to:

  • Licensing Boards for Physicians, Nurses & Allied Health Professionals
  • Professional Associations by State and Specialty
  • Professional Conferences
  • Directory of Hospital & Healthcare Employers
  • Nursing Columns, Q & A’s and Articles
  • Military Medicine
  • Healthcare Interview Questions
  • Virtual Healthcare Job Fair
  • Live Job Fairs
  • Job Tips
  • Job Board featuring thousands of Jobs
  • More…..
  • If you Google “Healthcare Jobs For Military, MilitaryConnection.com is front and center on the first page out of millions of listings.  This site is one of the most comprehensive online Military/Veteran Directories on the Internet with thousands of pages of resources and information attracting both active and passive healthcare candidates.

We hope that you will include military and veteran healthcare professionals in your recruitment plans.   Doing so will place you several steps ahead of your competition.   MilitaryConnection.com is designed to enable you to repeat your recruitment message to this audience of viable healthcare professionals.

MilitaryConnection.com offers many effective recruitment advertising options for your consideration.  We can also partner your organization with respected military non-profits to increase your positive visibility and be a win/win for all.  MilitaryConnection.com has the honor of working with the most respected military and veteran non-profits in the nation.  MilitaryConnection.com is valued member of the military/veteran communities.  Additionally, we are proud supporters of the Joining Forces program.  Check us out because when the next tour is back home, it’s on MilitaryConnection.com!

About the Author:

Debbie Gregory is CEO of MilitaryConnection.com. The website, launched in 2006 is known as The Go To Site for all things military. MilitaryConnection.com is a member of the International Association of Employment Websites and has been designated as a top 100 Employment Website by Weddles.com. In December, 2011, Ms. Gregory was invited to the White House to meet the President and First Lady as a leader in the Veteran Community. Additionally, she was appointed by the Governor of California to the Interagency Council for Veterans. MilitaryConnection.com in 2011 was awarded the Spirit of Small Business Award by Pacific Coast Business Times. In 2009, Ms. Gregory was named Woman Business Owner of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Ventura. MilitaryConnection.com is a member of the Better Business Bureau and holds an A+ ranking.

Erratic Driving of Combat Veterans

A unique feature of the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments is that many U.S. military personnel were attacked while driving. VA clinicians are aware that many of these returnees now face challenges in daily driving back in the US. Furthermore, actuarial data recently released by USAA, the major insurer of active and retired military personnel, have confirmed elevated accident rates post-deployment.

A review of driving records for tens of thousands of troops before and after deployments by USAA discovered that auto accidents in which the service members were at fault went up by 13 percent after deployments. Accidents were particularly common in the six months after an overseas tour, according to the review, which covered the years 2007-2010.

Returnees report that roadside objects, overpasses and other reminders of traumatic driving events can elicit fear and distress and divert attention from genuine civilian driving risks. Such responses are perfectly understandable from the perspective of what we know about human psychological functioning. For some returnees, fear and distress during driving will be persistent and disabling, and lead even to driving phobia.

Another facet of the problem is that common civilian driving situations can enlist trained “combat driving” maneuvers such as sudden swerving and driving in the center of the road, actions that were protective while deployed, but increase risk now. Similarly, many returnees now resist using seat belts for fear of entrapment even though seat belts greatly reduce risk of serious injury in civilian driving. The U.S. Army has recognized OEF/OIF returnees’ driving problems in its web-based BATTLEMIND Training, however, the DoD and VA are now exploring more intensive methods of helping veterans regain their comfort and sense of safety while driving on civilian roads. One of these efforts is underway at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and involves in-car sessions with a driving rehabilitation specialist. Interested persons can email their phone number to [email protected].

The author of this article is Dr. Steven H. Woodward. Dr. Woodward is a licensed clinical psychologist at the National Center for PTSD / Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. He received his PhD from the University of Southern California.

Another Profile In Courage – Denita Hartfield

Denita Hartfield is a profile in courage. Dennita planned to be career Army. She enlisted in 1992 to “serve my country and see the world.” With enthusiasm and passion, Denita moved from one role to another. She held positions as an analyst and assisted leadership training in state-of-the-art global positioning systems. As a weapons of mass destruction team leader, she maintained 100 percent accountability for sensitive items in excess of $3 billion. She led, coached, and mentored team members in sustainment training.

In the years after 9/11, she deployed with the 1st Infantry Division to Afghanistan and Iraq for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Then in May of 2005 while serving in Mosul, Iraq, her unit was ambushed during a recovery mission.

“One of our convoys had gotten attacked and (insurgents) were set up and waiting for us,” Denita says. “There were explosions and gunfire. Several people were wounded. I had a headache right away.”

That headache indicated that Denita had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), along with cracked ribs and a cracked tailbone. She had no visible wounds, but she knew from the headaches, body pains, and ringing in her ears that she was badly hurt.

In spite of her injuries, she hid and ignored the pain so she wouldn’t be sent home. Two weeks after the attack, she collapsed. Fluid had built up around her heart to such a degree that it stopped beating, a condition known as pericarditis. Then all of her injuries were diagnosed. The next year and a half was spent enduring multiple surgeries and physical therapy.

“My motivation throughout my entire recovery was returning to full duty status,” Denita says. “I negated that my injuries were prevalent enough to end my career because there were so many other soldiers that were killed in action, *or* lost limbs. Those guys are the real heroes. I had to return to combat in their honor and there was nothing to convince me that I was not going to return.”

Eventually, however, in 2007, she was medically dis-charged with an 80 percent service-connected disability rating. She used her medical severance to move to a home in Bakersfield, California, to be near her grandmother.

Denita, who has a master’s degree in criminal justice and weapons of mass destruction, accepted a job as dean of students at a local business school, but faced hardships on the job—not due to her disabilities, but because those disabilities were not apparent. Administrators at the college didn’t understand her injuries, absences, *or* ongoing medical appointments.

“I’d get ridiculed every time I had to go to a medical appointment,” she said. “I’m not what people think a disabled veteran should look like. ”Several times a week she had to travel to Sepulveda and West Los Angeles VA hospitals to treat the TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which caused insomnia and nightmares. Her boss complained every time she needed to be out of the office. Denita compensated by working 12- and 13-hour days. She couldn’t sleep, so she would work. She met every deadline and had exceptional performance reviews, despite her struggles. But that didn’t satisfy her superiors. Ultimately, when asked to postpone a surgery so her boss could take a personal trip, Denita had reached her limit. “You know how difficult it is to schedule a surgery through the VA,” she explains.

Then, like so many veterans with catastrophic injuries, a long, unfruitful search for employment began. She could not rely on VA disability payments because those still hadn’t begun. It took two years before she began receiving them, putting her in a precarious financial position.
She went without work for two years, but continued her volunteer efforts on behalf of veterans. “I was disabled, but I could still provide for my country,” she says. “That’s all veterans want to do—continue to serve.”

Denita held PTSD meetings for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, addressed policy issues on Capitol Hill, and spoke to boards of supervisors in various counties to educate policymakers on the need to assist returning combat veterans.

Then in March 2011 she began receiving vocational assistance from Joan Haskins, a Paralyzed Veterans Operation PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) counselor. Haskins recognized Denita’s advocacy experience and helped her apply for a position with U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy as a veterans’ constituent for California. “(Joan) was so encouraging and honestly understood the struggles of veterans who work so hard to return to the workforce,” Denita says. “Although I did not start in the position due to funding limitations, I continued to serve and support the veterans of California.”

Meanwhile Haskins corresponded with Denita every two weeks, sending links to employment opportunities, providing support documents to increase her visibility among applicants, and keeping her engaged.

In July Denita accepted a position with the U.S. Marshal’s Investigations Operations Division, her top secret security clearance and her military experience and education made her an ideal candidate for the agency. She cannot comment on the specifics of her work but says the job is “perfect.”

“I get the same sense of camaraderie that I felt in the military because we are all focused on the same objective: protecting and serving America,” she says. And no one questions her injuries *or* ongoing medical needs. “As veterans we are more than our combat in-juries,” Denita says. “We are assets to help restore stability to America.” She explains that veterans are mission driven, have leadership training, and work under high levels of pressure. She emphasizes that veterans’ leadership abilities and training can yield positive results in a time when financial constraints can hamper extensive training.

Denita exemplifies the value veterans can provide to the workplace and, like Paralyzed Veterans of America, believes employers should look to veterans first.

MilitaryConnection.com encourages employers to hire Veterans. They are highly viable candidates with a superior work ethic. We are a Top 100 Employment Web Site and “The Go To Site” for connecting with outstanding candidates including veterans, transitioning military, disabled veterans, wounded warriors and military spouses. Employers are also eligible for significant tax credits because of the “Vow To Hire Heroes Act” that was signed into law on November 21, 2011. Please join the Military Connection Initiative – “Hiring America’s Heroes”. Contact us for more information today – [email protected].

When the next tour of duty is back home, it’s on MilitaryConnection.com – The Go To Site!