For more than 100 years, the first Monday in September — Labor Day — has included parades, picnics and most importantly, a day off from work. Labor Day differs from every other holiday in that it does not honor a specific person, group, or event, but rather it recognizes the achievements and contributions of the American workforce for strengthening the prosperity and well-being of our nation.

Now considered the harbinger of summer's last days, Labor Day tends to be family-focused. For military families, however, Labor Day and similar holidays often provide a poignant reminder of the separation between them and their loved ones serving the nation in the armed forces, deployed abroad or on the home front. We want to thank those families for their sacrifice and the service of their loved ones. When those loved ones return from duty and are unable to find work after their military service, it becomes a problem of epic proportions, adding strain and drama to family-focused activities like Labor Day, which seems like a mockery.


Service members making the transition to civilian life represent the single largest pool of prospective, highly motivated and well-educated group of men and women in our country. More than 35 percent have attended college, almost 25 percent have earned college degrees and many have received specialized technical training, gaining experience that would cost many companies thousands of dollars to provide.

With proven leadership skills and accustomed to working on a mission-focused environment, veterans bring to the table qualities such as self-reliance, resiliency, a keen work ethic, and the ability to work under pressure. More than 90 percent of veterans have undergone extensive background checks for various security clearances.

At the VA Maryland Health Care System, a vocational rehabilitation team helps veterans whose transition into civilian life have hit some snags as a result of service-related experiences or injuries. The vocational rehabilitation team works with both veterans and employers to ensure that barriers to employment are removed or eliminated. It may be as simple as making sure veterans receive and take the proper medications for their injuries, or helping them to find a job, return to school or enroll in training. The team also works with employers by providing follow-up services to companies hiring veterans through the VA Maryland Health Care System's vocational rehabilitation program.

Companies hiring veterans can earn specific tax credits, but the bottom line is that hiring veterans can be a sound investment for any company because of their can-do attitude, their commitment to getting the job done regardless of the challenge, and the assurance that hiring someone with an honorable discharge means employers are hiring individuals who have maintained a positive record throughout their military career. Hiring a veteran is goodwill and good business. This Labor Day, think of putting our returning veterans back to work.

Employers wanting to join the network of companies working with the VA Maryland Health Care System's vocational rehabilitation team can call David Tesheira at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7356, or Patricia Lane at 410-642-2411, ext. 5506. Veterans enrolled for VA health care can also call Mr. Tesheira for assistance.

So this Labor Day, while enjoying barbeques and parades, let's remember the veterans who have guaranteed our freedoms by helping them to find a job.

Dennis H. Smith

The writer is director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.