Defense Department Expands Disabled Employee Hiring

WASHINGTON — Through the fed­er­al Work­force Recruit­ment Pro­gram, the Defense Depart­ment hired more than 400 stu­dents and recent grad­u­ates with dis­abil­i­ties dur­ing the fis­cal year just com­plet­ed, an offi­cial involved in the pro­gram said.

Stephen King, direc­tor of dis­abil­i­ty pro­grams for the department’s Office of Diver­si­ty Man­age­ment and Equal Oppor­tu­ni­ty, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice the fed­er­al pro­gram offers mean­ing­ful employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties to a seg­ment of the nation’s pop­u­la­tion that is reg­u­lar­ly dis­crim­i­nat­ed against, and which faces a much high­er-than-aver­age unem­ploy­ment rate. 

“The unem­ploy­ment rate [among dis­abled work­ers] … runs any­where from 40 to 80 per­cent,” he said. “That’s huge.” 

An esti­mat­ed 54 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have dis­abil­i­ties, King said, and as the nation’s largest employ­er, DOD has “an oblig­a­tion to do our fair share.” 

Under the pro­gram, co-spon­sored by ODMEO and the Labor Department’s Office of Dis­abil­i­ty Employ­ment Pol­i­cy, he said, about 90 vol­un­teer recruiters from across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment vis­it more than 250 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties nation­wide each year to inter­view stu­dents and recent grad­u­ates with disabilities. 

Each can­di­date is rat­ed on matu­ri­ty, direc­tion, expe­ri­ence and adapt­abil­i­ty, he explained, and those who receive the required scores are entered into an annu­al hir­ing data­base fed­er­al agen­cies can access each December. 

From an appli­cant pool of 2,200 in the data­base, DOD filled 408 tem­po­rary and 31 per­ma­nent posi­tions in fis­cal 2011, and oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies hired 88 can­di­dates, for a total of 527 hired through the pro­gram for the year, King noted. 

ODMEO funds 12- to 14-week sum­mer intern­ships under the pro­gram, but per­ma­nent hires are the employ­ing agency’s respon­si­bil­i­ty, he said. 

“We focus on try­ing to get very tal­ent­ed peo­ple, high-qual­i­ty stu­dents and recent grad­u­ates with dis­abil­i­ties into the pro­gram because we know that, quite frankly, they’re going to be break­ing down the bar­ri­ers to hope­ful­ly lead to more per­ma­nent hires in the future,” he said. 

The pro­gram offers DOD hir­ing man­agers the chance to “sell” the depart­ment to poten­tial per­ma­nent employ­ees through intern­ships, King said. 

“When they grad­u­ate, maybe they’ll con­sid­er a career with us before look­ing else­where,” he added. 

Schools inter­est­ed in the pro­gram sign up through the Labor Depart­ment, King said. He added that when he vis­it­ed Pennsylvania’s Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty nine years ago as a pro­gram recruiter, the school had inter­views sched­uled for one day. This year, the school sched­uled nine days for recruiter interviews. 

“They have an amaz­ing dis­abil­i­ty ser­vices office [and] an amaz­ing direc­tor of dis­abil­i­ty ser­vices … who is com­mit­ted to the pro­gram,” King said. 

Vet­er­ans made up 6 per­cent of the DOD pro­gram hires for fis­cal 2011, and depart­ment offi­cials are work­ing to increase that num­ber, he said. “One of the ideas … we’re con­sid­er­ing is work­ing more close­ly with mil­i­tary treat­ment facil­i­ties, as well as the recov­ery care coor­di­na­tors who assist wound­ed war­riors,” he added. 

In July 2010, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed Exec­u­tive Order 13548, Increas­ing Fed­er­al Employ­ment of Indi­vid­u­als with Dis­abil­i­ties. In response to the exec­u­tive order, the U.S. Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment released mod­el strate­gies to help agen­cies meet their obligations. 

“The Work­force Recruit­ment Pro­gram was high­light­ed as a mod­el pro­gram to attract youth with dis­abil­i­ties to fed­er­al ser­vice,” King said. “It’s tru­ly an hon­or to receive such recog­ni­tion by OPM.” 

The fis­cal 2012 data­base will be avail­able in ear­ly Decem­ber, he said, and hir­ing man­agers inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing can call his office at 703–571-9334 or email

“We need the DOD com­po­nents and oth­er fed­er­al gov­ern­ment agen­cies’ sup­port if we’re going to con­tin­ue to expand this pro­gram,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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