By Debbie Gregory.
This year, in an effort to promote collaboration and open dialogue among organizations dedicated to the success of transitioning service members, veterans, and their families, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI).
I had the pleasure of attending the Department of Veterans Affairs’ two-Day Veterans Economic Communities Initiative Policy Academy in Orange County, CA. This was the first in a series of “Policy Academies” the VA is hosting around the nation, in collaboration with national and community partners across industries and sectors.
These Policy Academies are an important part of the VECI campaign, as they serve as a forum for interactive training and networking, and provide access to new research for stakeholders who serve the Veteran community. Through VECI Policy Academies, VA is convening local, regional, and national partners across industries and sectors to facilitate and encourage dialog and collaboration.
One of my take-aways from the academy was that community-based efforts have a huge impact on the economic success of veterans. Engaging organizations and individuals in the community for the benefit of transitioning service members, veterans, and their families is crucial. This includes recognizing the value of hiring veterans and military spouses and improving the services, support and guidance to transitioning service members, veterans, and their families. This is a big part of my motivation in launching Joining Forces California.
While I was extremely impressed by many of the corporate citizens present, I was most impressed by Hilton Worldwide and Apria Healthcare.
Hilton Worldwide’s 12 unique hospitality brands across 4,200 hotels in 93 countries and territories make Hilton Worldwide the fastest growing global hotel company. Launched in 2013, Hilton’s Operation: Opportunity is a major initiative to provide extensive support to United States military veterans and their families. The initiative has a goal to hire 10,000 veterans at the company by 2018. Additionally, the program allows the donation of millions of Hilton HHonors points that veterans can redeem for free hotel stays while seeking jobs, both within and outside the company.
Apria Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading providers of home healthcare medical equipment and related services, supports our veterans and reservists through an outreach initiative called “Hiring Our Heroes.” Launched in 2014, the purpose of this initiative is to support those who have served our country by offering veterans the opportunity to make a successful transition to civilian life through employment with Apria. By focusing employment outreach and recruitment programs to attract veterans, Apria hopes to bring to its ranks men and women ingrained with qualities that align with Apria’s values, like leadership and a commitment to service excellence and teamwork, to help maintain and improve the quality of life for the company’s patients.