Heart of a Fighter Website!!!

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At Heart of a Fighter we understand how valuable time is and that’s why we are so appreciative of all of our followers and the time they take to check out our blog. It is through the transmission of information that we became better informed and in turn brome better equipped to help those who so bravely put their lives on the line so that we may live with the freedoms we possess. This blog has been one part of that mission and the second is the Heart of a Fighter website. We invite you to go check out the Heart of a Fighter website and see how we are helping to make a difference in the lives of women veterans. To date, Heart of a Fighter has been able to help 18 veterans, has received 9 real estate donations and has raised $200,000 received donations all to help our women veterans. All of these things have been made possible by people just like yourselves. We know that we cannot do this without you and we are grateful beyond words for that. So join us as we continue to forge forward in our mission to help our women veterans!!!

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Women Veterans: Out of Service, Out of Work? Part 3

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In Part 1  of our series on women veterans and unemployment, we looked at the disparity between male and female veterans and then in Part 2 we compared women veterans and women non-veterans. In Part 2, we went a step further and looked at how PTSD and the stigmas surrounding it contributed to the disparities. In this last part of the series, we wanted to look at the other reasons that have heavily contributed to women veterans difficulty in obtaining employment. 

   The problem lies in the fact that many of our returning veterans have not received adequate job search training, nor do they know how to write a resume that translates military jargon to “civilian-speak” or how to handle themselves during the interview process. The truth of the matter is that not all military occupations and training are transferable to the civilian workforce,  which places some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. This is further compounded by the fact that the highest percentage of unemployment is experienced by veterans within the 18 – 24 year old range. In essence, we are looking at a population of women veterans that are still very new to the workforce and may not have the work experience that their non-veteran peers may have over them.

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 Lack of certifications:

   Lack of certifications is an issue that is creating an area of difficulty for women veterans and their male counterparts. However, though both may be dealing with the issue, as we have gone over in the first installment of this series, women are bearing the brunt of it a little more than men. The problem is that while outside of the military many jobs require further education and certification this is not necessarily the case in regards to military  jobs. So you may have all the skills required for a position in the civilian sector, but since you do not have a piece of paper that states that you do, chances are you won’t get that job. In certain cases, there are also areas where vets have an advantage over non- veterans skill wise, but then in others they are seriously lagging because their settings don’t require those skills.

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  Skills difficult to translate

     Since there is a lack of certification in the military it becomes at times difficult for veterans to translate their skills when they are applying for positions. That’s poses a problem because although they may possess the necessary skills their inability to articulate them into their verbal civilian equivalents makes their applications less likely to be looked at more in depth. This lack of recognition can also lead to the bypassing of potentially great positions because they don’t realize that they hold all the skills the employer is looking for to fill the position. This, however, is not a single sided problem. Quite often, veterans will use terms that they are familiar with in the military. In the same way that veterans do not know how to translate the skills into civilian jargon, potential employers also have difficulty translating military skills and seeing how they can be applicable for the position they are looking to fill. So how do we correct the situation or help to improve it?

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Educate:

   I cannot stress enough how important a role education plays in rectifying the situation. By education, however, I do not mean a lengthy, expensive couple of years spent at a university, but educating our veterans on how to better articulate and utilize the skills they have while building on them. This by no means is an affront to those veterans that return home and go back to school, on the contrary, we applaud women’s desire to further educate themselves. What it is though is a call to action to make it so that women veterans are able to find employment with the skills they have already acquired. Many women veterans find themselves having to go back to school because they feel they have no other choice if they want to gain employment. If we were to help these women to highlight their skills and use them to their advantage they would be more readily capable of finding a position and taking care of themselves financially.

  It is also  important to educate employers, as well as the general public, of the the military roles and responsibilities that female veterans hold. If the civilian sector were more aware of the these factors it would make a big difference as opposed to just seeing one of the branches of the military listed in an application. If employers are aware of the skills female veterans have attained through their service they might actually be surprised at what a great investment it’d be for their company to hire a women veteran. That’s one reason why spreading information about women veterans issues is so important. As is almost always the case, the better informed someone is the better equipped they are to make good decisions.

 Some of you may be thinking, “Well, aren’t there government transition programs available for women veterans to utilize?” The answer to that is yes, but unfortunately the Transition Assistance Program hasn’t been revamped since its launch nearly two decades ago. This only becomes further troublesome when one considers the fact that it was at a period before there were high numbers of women in the military. This points to a big problem in the system and basically it is this:

The Veterans Affairs system is not properly set up for helping women.

   Many researchers and advocacy groups don’t believe the Veterans Affairs system can adequately meet the needs of female veterans in the areas of health care, child care, and psychological needs and this undoubtedly has an effect on their ability to find employment. Are programs getting better? One could argue they are, but at a pace that is being rapidly outdone by the number of women veterans reintegrating into civilian life. So what can be done?

    Heart of a Fighter founder, Suzanne Oliver, asked herself that same question and came up with a way to start paving the road to change. A veteran herself, she understands how difficult it can be to make the transition and she wanted to help to not only empower these women, but to create a community that would continue to multiply the efforts. She decided, after having lived a life as a very successful business women, to help women by teaching them how to open their own businesses through the use of a business incubator. In this way not only do the women who open the businesses benefit, but female veterans overall benefit as those women would be hiring and mentoring other female veterans.

  It is within our reach to consciously do what we can to help these women who have so bravely served our countries and giving them the chance to not only compete, but thrive in the civilian employment field seems like the least we could do. So go check out our website: www.heartofafighter.org and find out how we are helping and how you can get involved!

As always we love to hear from our followers and would love to hear what you have to contribute to the topic. If you are a women veteran who is dealing with financial difficulties or is unemployed we would love to hear from you. Likewise if you know a woman veteran we would love to hear their story. Please feel free to contact us through the comments or if you’d rather our contact page. Follow us on our Facebook page at Heart of a Fighter and on Twitter at @heartoffighter.

Women Veterans: Out of Service, Out of Work? Part 2

   In the first Part 1 of our series, we looked at the disparity between male and female veterans as it concerns unemployment rates. In this, the 2nd part of our series, we will be taking a closer look at the disparities that exist between women veterans and women non-veterans. As with male and female veterans, a distinct disparity is visible when looking at veteran and non-veteran women. As can be seen below, male veterans hold the lowest rate at 6.9% with women non-veterans following at 7.7% and women veterans tipping the calls at 8.3%.* We touched on the differences on why male veterans and women veterans rates differ, but why is it that the rates between women veteran and women non-veterans differ?

Unemployment Rates for women veterans, male veterans, and women non-veterans.

Unemployment Rates for women veterans, male veterans, and women non-veterans.

Whether you are a women veteran or not, finding employment is no easy task. It seems the market is flooded with people looking for a job, but there just aren’t enough positions for all of them. But for some reason, it seems that even with everyone having a rough time, women veterans are having a slightly harder time. One of the major factors that research has found for the disparity is that female veterans have significant histories of trauma. The issue of trauma is one that is riddled with the disadvantages it creates for women veterans. What exactly do I mean by this?

On the one hand, there is an existing problem with women veterans suffering from PTSD which can make the reintegration process particularly difficult to tackle without proper care and help. On the other hand, there is the stigma that is attached to being a veteran with PTSD, which causes employers to be weary of hiring them. Sometimes potential employers are quick to assume that a veteran will have PTSD, particularly when it comes to veterans who served in the Gulf War until the present, leaving little if any room for the veteran to prove otherwise.  Let’s look at these separately and break down how they affect women veteran’s ability to attain employment.

Actual Trauma

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According to the Department of Defense,  one-in-three military women have experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST), which includes sexual assault and threatening sexual harassment. These acts of trauma can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. PTSD in women veteran, however, is not just caused by MST and plenty of women find themselves dealing with PTSD for the same reason men do. It is no easy task to live your life wondering if the caravan you’re driving in will be targeted for an ambush or an improvised explosive devise and battle stress ways just as heavily on women as it does on men.

As a matter of fact, according to the National Center for PTSD, women in the military run a double risk of developing PTSD—10 percent of women versus 4 percent of male service members—for reasons ranging from battle stress and sexual harassment to assault. Symptoms of PTSD include severe anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares, all of which can make it difficult for a woman to reintegrate into civilian society upon leaving the military.The issue is further compounded when one looks at how little research has actually been put into how PTSD is affecting women and how the issue can best be handled. It should be of no surprise that women veterans who have suffered from MST would find it difficult to step back into the civilian workforce where they may be in close proximity to men, especially if they have not received the help they need (an issue that will be explored in a later post.)

   The Stigma 

There was a time when many would be proud to state that they were a veteran when applying for a position. As a matter of fact, most would tell you that it provided that extra touch to their resume that almost made them a shoo-in for the positions. That, however, has all changed and many veterans find themselves seriously weighing the benefits of actually leaving it off there applications. So why the big change? Many veterans considering it will tell you the reason is that they fear employers will automatically assume they will be a liability because they may have PTSD. It makes it difficult to gain entry into the workforce when everyone is concerned with the fact that you may freak out or undergo a potential traumatic flashback during your shift.

This creates a a problem no only for women veterans who have not had PTSD, but particularly for those who have but have learned to cope with it. It creates a sense of being penalized for something that was beyond their control. The fact that they were able to find a means to cope becomes almost insignificant, as the focus lies solely on the condition itself and not how it has been handled or overcome. The way it is treated is like a version of the cooties and it the fact that it is treated that way is just as ridiculous as it is when children act in such a way.

Qualifications?

As is often the case, there is more that contributes to the issue of unemployment for women veterans beyond the issue of trauma and stigma. In our next post, the final on this series, we will be exploring how the question of qualifications has become an issue when looking for employment. Many times the training and experience that women and male veterans gain during their service, which are an immense asset, are of little use as they lack the credentials to prove they have said skills. We will look at the steps that are being taken to provide veterans with these much needed hard – copy credentials for potential employers and the affect it is having on women veterans in particular.

As always we love to hear from our followers and would love to hear what you have to contribute to the topic. If you are a women veteran who is dealing with financial difficulties or is unemployed we would love to hear from you. Likewise if you know a woman veteran we would love to hear their story. Please feel free to contact us through the comments or if you’d rather our contact page. Follow us on our Facebook page at Heart of a Fighter and on Twitter at @heartoffighter.

*This information reflects statistics last updated on December 2013.

Women Veterans: Out of Service, Out of Work? Part 1

I’d like to start of this post by sincerely thanking all those who have started following and have liked or shared our postings. As with anything, we know that you have a choice in what you read and the fact that you have chosen to take the time to follow us is not lost on us. In our last article, we hinted at the issues that women veterans are facing. In this post, we wanted to delve into one in particular that we have fixed our sights on helping to alleviate: Unemployment.

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Making the transition into civilian employment after serving in the military is not easy, but some will tell you that it is a lot harder than they had been expecting. While both men and women veterans have been dealing with the issue of unemployment, the rate of unemployment for women has been higher than it is for men. The fact is that women veterans are 4 times more likely to have financial difficulties and end up homeless than their male counterparts. According to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately a little over  1.8 million women veterans.*  In terms of percentages, this represents about 8.6% of veterans as a whole, a number which has risen considerably since 2002 when the percentage was 6.4%. Considering that the number of male veterans is visibly larger one would think that the number of unemployed veterans would be smaller than that of men, but the opposite is actually true.

If we look at the graph below, we can see that in 2011 the number of male and female veterans who were unemployed were very close with just a  0.4%  higher unemployment rate for women. However, in the following year, we saw a drop in unemployment for the men, while for women not only did we not see a drop, but in fact there was a slight increase of 0.1%.

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Statistics on Unemployment for male and female veterans

   

I think part of the issue is the fact that women veterans, for all their hard work and service, are still not being viewed in the same light as their male counterparts. Male veterans, for the most part, return home after service to find themselves greeted as heroes and given the respect that befits that title. Women veterans, on the other hand, do not receive the same praise as men do and at times, are not even viewed or thought of as being veterans. The importance behind this observation goes beyond simply complaining about the lack of recognition and respect that women veterans receive. It brings into question the perception that the public (potential employers included) have in regards to male and female veterans. The high level of recognition and respect given to male veterans for being heroes makes employers more likely to want to hire a male veteran out of respect for their service to our country.  It’s not so much a sense of hero worship that occurs, but more so a sense of wanting to do something to pay them back for their service.

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  In the case of women veterans, we find this level of recognition and respect missing, and so there is less of an inclination to feel the need to act in a similar manner when it comes to women veterans. At the end of the day, this view only further seems to fuel and encourage the “old boys club” type of mentality that women have been dealing with since they entered the military. I have read quite a number of stories of women who have applied for positions where they are more than capable of performing the job and have all the requirements that are being sought for that position, but they have been passed up because the employers have wanted to hire a man. This is not to say that this occurs every single time a woman  veteran applies for a position, but it should be noted that it does occur and, as such, is a problem that is deserving of our  attention and further consideration when discussing the issues women veterans face when seeking employment.

This disparity in the way that male and female veterans are viewed is something, that as I pointed out in the previous article, can be seen in daily occurrences. There needs to be a change in the way the public at large views women veterans and the role they play in our military. It is disheartening to know that these women go out and fight for our country, amid the constant pressure of having to prove themselves capable of doing so while in service, only to come back and deal with further skepticism as to their actual contributions.

Women Veterans Vs. Non-Veteran Women

The issue is not only limited, however, to the difference between male and female veterans. In researching the issue, we found that not only was the rate for unemployment higher for women veterans than it is for their male counterparts, but it is also higher than it is for women non-veterans. In the next post, we will be looking at the differences in unemployment rates between women veterans and non-veteran women, as well as the potential factors that are contributing to this difference.

We always love to hear from our followers and would love to hear what you have to contribute to the topic. If you are a women veteran who is dealing with financial difficulties or is unemployed we would love to hear from you. Likewise if you know a woman veteran we would love to hear their story. Please feel free to contact us through the comments or if you’d rather our contact page.

 

 *This information reflects statistics last updated on December 2013.

Salute to Female Veterans…

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A lot of people out there may not know this, but this week, February 12th – 18th, is known as “National Salute to Veteran Patients”.  The annual event was designed by the Department of Veteran Affairs to increase public awareness of Veterans , as well as the sacrifices they have made for our nation.  As part of the week long events, women veterans shared their stories during a Salute to female veterans event. This was of particular importance because while it is true that both men and women have a lot to deal with upon their return from service, women veteran’s issues differ largely from the issues their male counterparts face. Although the number of women in service has greatly increased since women first entered into the military, they find themselves dealing with a lot of issues. It seems fitting that we start our blog at this time and do our part to bring about awareness of Women Veteran’s issues.

“Old Boy’s Club” Mentality 

If you have ever traveled and have been to Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport then you are well aware that it is a major international hub and there are always a lot of people traveling in and out of it. As such, it is not surprising to see servicemen and women catching flights either to their place of deployment or back home. Last year, I was taking a flight to Los Angeles and I had a layover in Atlanta. While waiting for my flight, I noticed some soldiers sitting at the gate across from me. There was a group of four male soldiers sitting together in one section and not far off there were two more soldiers, both female. I must admit, I’m a bit of a people watcher and as I watched I observed something very interesting.

During the span of my 40 minute wait, I counted more than 10 people who had stopped and thanked the male soldiers for their service. I say male soldiers because although the female soldiers were sitting only a couple of chairs down and towards the front like the men, no one bothered to stop and thank them. As I boarded my plane, I could not stop thinking about what I had observed. Both the men and women were dressed in their uniforms, which consisted of fatigues, so why was it that the men were approached while the women received no praise? For a moment, I considered that maybe it was just a case of men being more comfortable engaging and praising other men, but then I remembered that at least two out of the 10 had been women.

Sadly enough, the scene I was privy may not be all that surprising to any women veterans who read this. Although times have changed and women’s rights and the expectations of what they are capable of have expanded, women are still facing the old biases and discriminations that come with being a woman in the military. At the end of  the day, women are still  working hard to prove that they are are capable of serving. This is something that they deal with not only while they are in service, but also when they are done with their service.Whether it be from their male counterparts, while in and out of service, or from the general public women are still finding very little in the way of support and praise. In fact, women veterans quite often come home to find themselves struggling with a system that all too often unwelcoming and unresponsive to their needs.

Heart of a Fighter is an organization dedicated to helping women veterans find their voice once more by helping women veterans start their own businesses.  This helps to alleviate the financial difficulties they face upon reintegration,  as well as creates a sense of empowerment that may be lacking upon their reintegration.We want to open up the lines of discussion not merely for the sake of discussion, but in order to find and implement solutions that will prove effective in dealing with all the issues that women veterans have to deal with upon their return from service. This blog is one part of helping to bring about awareness and opening up those lines of communication. Follow us as we shed light on the the various issues women veterans have been dealing with such as: insufficient health care and support, difficulties gaining employment and homelessness just to name a few. In addition, we will also keep you up to date on our progress as we work to help 100 women veterans start their own businesses. We ask that you join the conversation and share with other women veterans. Together we can create the type of system women veterans need.

This blog is not about sitting back and complaining about the unjust way in which women veterans are being treated. It is about providing awareness on issues that should not just be of concern to women veterans or even just women, but to all people. I have always been of the belief that no matter how small or big your role in something is, it is still of importance to the whole. As such, the role of a woman veteran who may have served as a field nurse is no less important than the man who served on the front line. Everyone is equally deserving of the respect, care, and support that they have earned by serving their country. Women veterans are not asking for preferential treatment… they are merely asking for the care and support that they deserve.