Veteran Success Stories
The Employment Development Department (EDD) has proudly helped veterans across our state transition from military life into the California workforce. In the success story profiles below, hear from veterans who have used the EDD programs, and find out what services have helped them to find success in their job searches.
Los Angeles County
Veteran Michelle O’Neil once viewed her battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a barrier to success. Today, Michelle is using her struggle to help other veterans at the California Department of Veteran Affairs (CalVET).
Michelle said working as a Veteran Outreach Social Worker is the perfect job. “I love it,” she said. “There’s nothing like helping other vets.” But finding the perfect job was far from easy.
With help from the East Los Angeles America’s Job Center of CaliforniaSM, Michelle made the transition from military life into the civilian world. She served 10 years in the U.S. Army, and qualified for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program because of her service-related PTSD. Though she had earned a master’s degree in social work, Michelle lacked long-term civilian work experience, so she needed to brush up on her job interview skills.
The Employment Development Department (EDD) Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist Paul Dhillon took Michelle under his wing. He taught her how to make the valuable skills she learned in the military relevant to employers in the civilian workplace. “I’m conditioned to getting up and getting the job done,” said Michelle. “I know how to work as part of a team.”
For nearly a year, Michelle persisted. She took job interview workshops that taught her how to present herself to potential employers. With the help of EDD DVOP Specialist Paul, Michelle rewrote her résumé to make it more effective and kept applying for jobs. The hard work paid off. In June, she accepted the full-time job with CalVET, a professional position with a solid future.
Today, she gives the same advice and encouragement to other veterans looking to make the transition into civilian careers. “Be persistent and stay focused,” she says with pride.
As a disabled veteran, Michael McKinney has faced and overcome his share of life challenges and setbacks. But he proved to be resilient once again when it came to finding a job.
“Michael McKinney was a very rapid turnaround success,” said John Plane, a Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist with Employment Development Department’s (EDD) Mark Sanders America’s Job Center of CaliforniaSM (AJCC) in Sacramento.
Michael showed up to the AJCC in March, and within two days was hired as a delivery driver by TNG West, a distribution and merchandising company. “The veteran specialist I worked with was a good person,” Michael said. “He really helped me out.”
In his short time at the AJCC, Michael attended a VetNet workshop, where he learned how to present himself to employers, and how to sell himself and his skills to potential employers with confidence. Michael says the courses gave him insight and the personalized help he needed.
On top of getting a full-time job with TNG West, Michael said the EDD DVOP Specialist John helped him secure the salary he needed to support his family, including two daughters who are making their ways through college. John credits Michael’s success with the veteran’s focus on his family. “He told me he was at the TNG West yard at 6:30 a.m. when the employer told him to come in ‘anytime’ the next day to apply for the job,” said John. “That early appearance both surprised and delighted his new employer.”
San Diego County
Veteran Santana Belmont desperately needed a second chance in life. Last fall, he got that second chance at Able-Disabled Advocacy, a non-profit organization in San Diego that provides employment and training services to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Santana served as a military officer in the U.S. Marines. But a tough adjustment to civilian life led him down a path of crime and to a prison sentence. After serving his time, Santana was determined to turn his life around and was referred to the Veterans’ Employment-Related Assistance Program through the Employment Development Department.
“When I met him, he was a sweet guy, very motivated and cooperative,” said August Balilo, the case manager/Internet technology instructor at Able-Disabled Advocacy. But he recognized that there were difficult employment barriers for Santana to overcome to find the right job.
With August’s support, Santana completed IT training and received his Microsoft Office Certifications in both Word and Excel. The VetWORKS staff also assisted him with job readiness training, résumé preparation, and interview practice. “He was consistent, focused, and created his own opportunities,” said August. Santana is now using the mistakes he made in his life to help others in theirs. According to August, “He has a good heart and believes in second chances.”Santana got a full-time job as a residential advisor/computer support specialist at the San Diego Job Corps. Working with disadvantaged and at-risk youth has fulfilled one of Santana’s greatest goals: to show others that no obstacle is insurmountable and that through hard work, they too can overcome great odds and give back to others.
San Joaquin County
For six years, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Arthur Thompson called his 2007 Saturn sedan his home. Homeless and disabled, with no viable job prospects, Arthur visited the San Joaquin County WorkNet for help. There he met caseworker Racheal Walker, who described Thompson as “persistent and tenacious” with “gumption and grit.” Through Arthur’s tenacity – coupled with Rachael’s unrelenting professionalism – they found him a job, an apartment and a future.
But Arthur’s success didn’t come easy. Though Arthur had completed a pharmacy tech program and earned his license, he had no experience. He also has a service-connected disability that requires special accommodations.
First, Arthur got help finding his apartment from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.
Then Arthur devoted his time and efforts to improving his résumé and interview skills. “I learned how to construct a proper résumé that gets results,” he said. “During my job interview, every question I was asked, I had the answer ready because the program prepared me by knowing the most frequently asked questions. I was confident from the coaching and the practicing.”
Today, Thompson is a Veteran Educator/Advisor with WestCare, San Joaquin Valley Veterans in Stockton. “I am very happy,” said Thompson. “I can honestly say I could not have done it without Rachael Walker.” Arthur still has his Saturn today, but now he’s happy to just be driving it to work.