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Letter to the editor: Why businesses should hire veterans

Valentine’s Day is a great time to say thanks to veterans throughout the country. The VA National Salute to Veteran Patients Week observance runs from Feb. 9 to 15, and is timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day to connect the holiday’s sentiments of caring and sharing with expressing honor and appreciation to veterans for their sacrifice and service.

Local businesses and companies are asking what they can do to express their gratitude to our veterans. One of the best ways to do that is to hire them.

An important reason to consider hiring veterans is simply the return on investment. Veterans and returning service members bring unique skills and experiences to the civilian workforce. Because of the training, work ethic and goal-oriented culture of the military, many companies report that veterans make excellent employees with a higher rate of retention. Companies are also reporting that their unique military experience translates into skills to complete tasks in a timely and efficient manner. They also note that veterans are great leaders and great team members. In fact, veterans often possess both the hard and soft skills coveted by today’s employers, including leadership, management, teamwork, accountability and responsibility skills.

Partnership opportunities

Maryland’s employers can partner with the VA Maryland Health Care System to support our veterans while strengthening their own staff through the VA’s Compensated Work Therapy/Transitional Work Experience (CWT/TWE) program. The CWT is a Department of Veterans Affairs vocational rehabilitation program established by Congress that provides opportunities for disabled veterans and veterans with various barriers to participate in a variety of job assignments in a structured, therapeutic environment. The ultimate goals of our CWT/TWE participants include gainful community employment, increased independence and enhanced quality of life.

CWT/TWE operates like an employment staffing agency, partnering with local employers to provide motivated, reliable veterans who can perform a wide range of work assignments to an employer’s specifications and satisfaction.

A company or business owner’s support of the CWT/TWE program can help provide our veterans with the employment stepping stones needed to continue their development as responsible, self-sufficient citizens and productive members of the Maryland workforce. Maryland’s veterans are honorable men and women who are looking for a hand up — not a handout. Our program assisted more than 250 veterans during the past fiscal year in obtaining competitive employment in the community and another 50 who landed jobs with the Veterans Health Administration.

Tax credits

Businesses partnering with our CWT/TWE program benefit in a multitude of ways, including eligibility for the Work Opportunity Tax Credits and access to employees who are dependable and committed with a strong sense of integrity and accountability. I urge Maryland’s employers to explore what could be a win-win situation. Partnering with the VA’s CWT/TWE program helps fulfill Equal Employment Opportunity goals and further enhances a company’s image as a community-minded employer.

Companies interested in hiring veterans participating in the CWT/TWE program can contact LaVerne D. Harmon, the Compensated Work Therapy Program manager for the VA Maryland Health Care System, at (410) 637-1291 or at

Veterans have already demonstrated their dedication to our nation through their service. What better way to thank our veterans than by extending an opportunity for them to show how they can strengthen our nation’s workforce with their talents, ingenuity and work ethic?

Dennis H. Smith is the director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.