Research - Rehabilitation - Re-Employment
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
I have always liked your columns and they provide good insight to a variety of issues. As a Washington, D.C., resident, disabled vet and politically savvy reader, I can VERY WELL understand the position you must take sometimes.
However, I must take exception to Veterans Employment and Training Service Secretary Borrego's comments in your November 1 column.
First, the web site listed in the column, advising veterans and their employers of rights under veterans' preference and the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA), cannot be accessed. To find the proper information, one has to go to http://www.dol.gov/dol/vets/public/programs/programs/preference/vetspref.htm, which comes from http://www.usajobs.opm.gov. From there, go into the Veterans Preference portion for this information.
The Department of Labor web site is totally lacking in giving that same information. The site that the VETS office gives doesn't work, even through the DOL lengthy "search" function.
I take this strong stance on this issue due to the recent notification to me, from a federal Cabinet-level agency, that clearly demonstrated that the agency functionaries are ignorant regarding the veterans preference laws and the possible repercussions with the USERRA claims that I now have to submit.
By having gone all the way to the Court of Veterans Appeals, only to have my case remanded back, on a 12-year period claim, and my continued efforts traveling through the bureaucratic maze, I can say with the greatest assurance that Secretary Borrego's comments are, ah, at the least, all wet.
Just pass'n it along, my friend. Keep up the good work.
I forwarded your missive to Assistant Secretary Borrego and he has assured me that he has been in communications with you.
In that November 1 column, I mentioned how irked I was at the Department of Veterans Affairs for not hiring qualified blinded veterans. I was talking about Jim Reese, a most qualified blinded veteran who was not selected as director of the premier VA Hines Chicago Blind Rehabilitation Center. Jim, who was the assistant director of the center, also served as acting director of its blind rehab program. Instead of selecting the most qualified Jim, the medical center director and his "me, too" confederates selected a sighted individual -- with less credentials and whom Mr. Reese supervised.
Continuing the VA Medical Center sham: A large caliber shot is aimed at Edward H. Seiler, Medical Center Director at VAMC West Palm Beach. Mr. Seiler played the pre-selection game, hiring a non-blinded veteran to direct a new blind rehabilitation program at the West Palm Beach Medical Center. Stacking the selection committee with "me, too" apparatchiks who had no prior blind rehabilitation knowledge, Seiler manipulated the system to select a friend who would become either the director or team leader of the new program. In a letter dated September 2, 1999, Stan Poel, Chief, Blind Rehabilitation Service, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, declined the Chief position at West Palm Beach with these words:
"After careful consideration, I feel I cannot accept your offer of employment as the Chief of the Blind Rehabilitation Center at your facility.
I believe the careful selection of the staff of this program is an essential element in the establishment of a quality program. When you offered me the position of Chief, you informed me that the selection of Team Leader was already completed.
I feel the Team Leader was selected without full consideration of all applicants for the position. The selection process did not include interviews with all candidates or any meaningful involvement by the Chief of the program. Because of this, I do not feel assured of the commitment of top management in our facility to excellence in this new program. Further, I do not feel assured that I would be appropriately empowered as Chief of the program to use my abilities in leading this program to excellence."
Blinded veterans who applied were not given an opportunity to compete for the position. Their paperwork was conveniently lost, and the most qualified blinded veteran was not even on the list to be interviewed. And guess who got the Chief's position: Seiler's non-veteran friend.
There is no wonder why this once-prestigious VA Blind Rehabilitation program is deteriorating right before the blinded veteran's eyes.
To Thomas A. Pouliot, Commander-in-Chief, Veterans of Foreign Wars, for his leadership in promoting the inclusion of veterans on the newly-created Workforce Development Boards, established through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. In his letter to all 50 state governors, Pouliot stated:
"This Act makes the first substantial changes to the employment and training delivery system in the past 15 years. The cornerstone of this new law provides the employment and training programs will be centered at the state and local levels.
"WIA requires each State Governor to establish a State Workforce Development Board. The Governor and the State Workforce Board will then establish local workforce areas within the state. Local workforce boards will be formed in each of these designated areas to implement the WIA programs. One key concept of the Act is local control of all WIA programs combined with the new one-stop service delivery system."
The Sarge joins Commander Pouliot in urging the governors to ensure veteran interests are addressed by appointing at least one veteran advocate to each State Workforce Development Board and by encouraging local officials to do the same. All employment and training programs impact the veteran community and veterans must be represented at the table when decisions are made.
Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax to 301-622-3330; call 202-462-4430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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