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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Helping Vets Still Serve America

As we head into the 4th of July celebration, it’s a meaningful time to honor the military service members who are protecting our country and its ideals.  It’s also a time to reflect upon all our nation has endured throughout the pandemic and the people who have made it possible to overcome so many unforeseen challenges. I think about the veterans who are still serving in their communities long after they’ve taken off their uniforms, such as former medics now in the healthcare industry on the frontlines of COVID-19. 

The pandemic provided this country with many all-hands-on-deck moments and the recovery from it will be no different.  One organization that I am especially proud to work with is strengthening communities in the southern US that have been hit hard economically this past year.  It’s called Still Serving Veterans (SSV) and is ably led by retired Army Major General Paulette Risher, one of the most able leaders you’ll ever meet.  

Paulette and SSV have their work cut out for them.  Alarmingly, in a recent study, 60% of veterans identify as unemployed or under-utilized in the workforce. SSV is determined to change that – one veteran at a time.  And they are.  Throughout our 8-year partnership, the organization has placed 5,693 veterans into high-quality jobs—that’s a Brigade sized group of veterans, driving more than a quarter of a billion in economic impact and earning a 100% rating from Charity Navigator. 

The hands-on career counseling and job placement SSV employs translates into the kind of impact that is both measurable and durable – even when a crisis like COVID-19 hits. The organization anticipated the shutdown and adapted immediately. Last year alone, they helped nearly a thousand vets get hired and secured nearly $1.5 million in benefits for them – resources that boost the livelihoods of their families and in turn strengthen communities. As Paulette reminds me, “we were more than ready, because one thing about the military is you’re trained to look ahead to the next challenge.”

A hallmark of the Call of Duty Endowment is our Seal of Distinction, a rigorous screening process that incorporates Charity Navigator inputs to evaluate all our applicants. This approach, in partnership with Deloitte, allows us to find those organizations that demonstrate the highest level of impact and integrity in placing veterans in quality jobs.  SSV rises to the top of our elite group of grantees because they consistently drive measurable impact and are a learning organization that constantly seeks to improve their processes. They’ve built agile information architecture, thorough client case management, strong accounting standards, and financial and impact transparency. 

Another key to the success of SSV is their attention to human relationships and processes for receiving feedback from clients.  Paulette never forgets that behind their impressive metrics are real people. “This is a human business,” she says, “we don't make widgets and we help people build meaningful lives.” That means they are dedicated to hiring veterans to serve as job placement counselors, given the instant empathy they have for clients. And they ensure their clients are well-matched with the right counselor and listened to throughout the process.  

One success story behind their numbers is Timothy Hobbs Jr., Sergeant First Class US Army (Ret.), a former Army Combat Medic now living in Columbus, Georgia who completed four combat deployments during his career. Thanks to their assistance, SFC Hobbs is currently enjoying a meaningful career as a senior healthcare analyst at a major company.  “Thousands of veterans remained out of work and underutilized when their country needed them the most,” writes SFC Hobbs in a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution op-ed. “Veteran Service Organizations that are working hard to help veterans find work deserve more of our support.” 

I couldn’t agree more.  The 4th of July is a time to honor our country, hold long overdue celebrations, and not only thank veterans for their service but support those who make it possible for that invaluable service to continue. 

About our author: Captain Dan Goldenberg, USN (Ret.) is the Call of Duty Endowment’s executive director and a vice president at Activision Blizzard. The Endowment has funded the placement of more than 85,000 veterans into high quality employment. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan4Vets

Still Serving Veterans (SSV) has a 100 out of 100 Encompass rating by Charity Navigator.

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