“I've really enjoyed adjusting our services to meet individual needs during these confusing and scary times. It's one of the best parts of being in an organization that values life-long relationships with its clients and members."
- PAVE Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
With the COVID-19 pandemic currently in our midst, we are in uncharted territory. The employment arena has changed, who is hiring has changed, and we are experiencing record unemployment. PVA's employment program, PAVE, is stepping up by adjusting what we do and how we do it. We are focusing on meeting all of our clients' needs, to make sure they are receiving holistic support. We know that the focus may shift, but our ability to be there, every day, for our clients will not change.
One of the biggest differences between PAVE and other veteran employment programs is that we have a team of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, in addition to our Employment Analysts. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors are specifically trained in the vocational, medical, and psychological aspects of disability. This means we have specialized experience in helping individuals evaluate transferable skills, request accommodations, find positions that build on their experience and interests, as well as making sure that they are going to be successful in their positions. In sum, we help individuals with disabilities live full, independent lives.
Interestingly, these skills allow us to better serve all veterans, spouses and caregivers by giving them a personalized and tailored experience. Within PAVE, we provide one-on-one support focused on helping our clients’ independent goals. PAVE has a "partner for life" guarantee, so if at any point our client needs additional assistance we are still here to offer a helping hand.
A PAVE client and U.S. Air Force Veteran, Sharon, shared this: “Getting the laptop opened up new doors like giving me the ability to bank online, reach out to employers, and continue volunteer work, which is vital at this time. Having a computer to apply for positions was the hardest part. It has gotten me going on my job search and has made finding employment feel like it is within reach.”
Here are some examples of how our PAVE team is going above and beyond to support our individual clients:
- Making an extra effort to check in on those who are isolated, live alone, or are at risk
- Providing additional PAVE Connect virtual sessions to discuss pivoting the job search during COVID-19
- Assisting our clients with filling out unemployment applications and staying up to date on unemployment changes
- Checking in on our clients who are “essential” and making sure they are handling the extra hours/stress
- Interpreting the CARES Act for small business owners
- Sharing remote positions and urgent employer hiring needs
- Researching and distributing remote/free resources for continuing education
- Tracking and sharing free resources for phone/internet/computer/food in their community
- Setting up individual Zoom meetings with clients to assist with application submissions
- Checking in on transitioning service members and teaching them tips for networking and reaching out to employers through virtual platforms
- Constantly promoting posts on LinkedIn of employers who are hiring for both temporary and full-time employment roles
During this time, PAVE is getting to know the specific needs of our clients and meeting them where they are. We are challenging ourselves and our clients to think outside the box and are actively working to find the resources they need to attain even better opportunities. Instead of becoming stagnant, PAVE is striving to be flexible and creative. This includes helping our clients adjust their job search but most importantly making sure they know that in spite of being socially isolated, they are always a part of our community.
Please reach out to Paralyzed Veterans of America’s PAVE team if you have any questions or need support. We also have a lot of resources online such as a transformation toolkit and interactive virtual engagement sessions called PAVE Connect. Please check out PVA.org/PAVE or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Allison Borden, MS, CRC, CCM - Allison is a PAVE Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor based at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, VA. Allison has more than 6 years as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and has worked for PAVE for almost 2 years. A native of Chicago, Allison received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Genia Hachenberg, MS, CRC - Genia is a PAVE Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor based in Atlanta, GA. Genia has over 20 years of experience in both private, federal and non-profit sectors. She is also a native of Atlanta earning her Master’s Degree from Georgia State University.