Women have served in the U. S. Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War. Today, there are over two million women Veterans across the nation, representing 9.2 percent of the entire living veterans’ population. Women are one of the fastest growing segments of the overall Veteran population.
Women Veterans face a landscape that continues to evolve with the demands of recent wars, the rescinding of the ground combat exclusion policy for women, and the possibility of challenging readjustments upon returning home. They are also faced with higher unemployment rates, further exacerbated by child care issues, unique health care issues and higher homelessness rates. Accordingly, the VA is stepping-up its efforts to meet these challenges.
In 1994, Congress established the Center for Women Veterans to address the changing needs of women veterans. One of the Center’s priorities is to build and enhance partnerships that can enable women veterans to build economic stability and improve their well-being and that of their families.
One recent partnership, established this May, is with the U.S. Mint. Agreed to by Elisa Basnight, the Director of the Center for Women Veterans, and Rhett Jeppson, the Principal Deputy Director of the Mint, the partnership could not have come at a better time—and represented two distinctly separate Federal agencies coming together to solve a problem.
The Mint’s circulating coin production levels over the past several months increased dramatically due to an improved economy. The Mint’s leadership realized that it needed to add another shift at its Denver and Philadelphia facilities to meet the demand from the Federal Reserve. Both Denver and Philadelphia had been operating with two shifts.
Going to three shifts, however, was going to require hiring additional people. And what a better and more deserving force to offer employment opportunities to than our veterans? The Center for Women Veterans and the Mint held two career fairs—one in Denver and the other in Philadelphia. Although open to the public, the fairs focused on Veterans with a special outreach effort to women Veterans. Available positions included metal forming machine operators; coin manufacturers; tool and parts attendants; and materials handlers.
The first career fair was conducted in May in Philadelphia. Of the 41 attendees, 20 were veterans. All seven selected to be interviewed were offered positions. Four were women.
In June, the second fair was held in Denver where 42 individuals attended—38 of which were veterans. Nine Veterans were interviewed and eight were offered positions. Seven of the eight were women.
Prior to the career fairs, the Center for Women Veterans alerted VA’s Homeless Office to ensure that veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless were made aware of the events and able to participate.
Both career fairs were considered to be extremely successful and were great ways to say “thanks” to our Veterans in a subtle but still substantive way.
The partnership between the Center for Women Veterans and the Mint continues with the two agencies coming together at upcoming Nationwide Women Veterans Campaign events in various cities around the country. The Campaign events will raise awareness and celebrate the stories of women veterans and provide an overview of services and benefits available to them. Experts will be available to answer veterans’ questions, and exhibitors will share information on their resources.
Women have served in the U. S. Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War. Today, there are over two million women veterans across the nation, representing 9.2 percent of the entire living veterans’ population. Women are one of the fastest growing segments of the overall veteran population.
For more information on the Campaign events, visit: http://www.va.gov/WOMENVET/wvCampaign.asp.
Elisa Basnight, Esq., was appointed director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans in October 2013. She is the primary advisor to the secretary of Veterans Affairs on programs and issues related to women Veterans. She is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy – West Point, and a former Army intelligence officer.
Rhett Jeppson is the principal deputy director of the U.S. Mint. Prior to joining the Mint, Jeppson served as the acting chief operating officer of the Small Business Administration. He also served as associate administrator for Veterans business development at the SBA. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps and was commissioned after graduating from the University of Florida. He has deployed to conflicts in Iraq (Operation Desert Storm) and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom). He currently remains a member of the Marine Corps Reserve where he serves as a Lieutenant Colonel.