Melwood’s Vets Ready2Work program helps to fill the unemployment gap for veterans


This content is sponsored by Melwood

Vernecia Smith, Program Manager for Veterans Workforce Development, works with a Melwood Vets Ready2Work program participant.
Ty Harris, Director of Operations and Vets Ready2Work, discusses the program with a participant.
A Melwood Vets Ready2Work program participant on the job.

Vernecia is a 15-year Air Force veteran and health service administrative officer.  Due to injuries sustained during a tour of duty, she was unable to continue her work in the military. She was in search of a new career and heard about a summer internship with the Vets Ready2Work program. By the time her 4-month internship with the program was finished, she received two job offers.

Vernecia chose a permanent career with the Vets Ready2Work program where she provided fellow veterans with job readiness support and, ultimately, meaningful employment.  In less than two years, Vernecia received a promotion and now serves as the new Program Manager for Veterans Workforce Development. She oversees a team that provides the one-on-one training, resources, and job opportunities that also helped to change her life.

According to a Current Population Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August 2017, there are an estimated 370,000 unemployed veterans in the United States. Accordingly, veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in August 2017.

Melwood Veterans Services, LLS, (MVS) is an affiliate of Melwood, the largest nonprofit organizations in the Washington metropolitan area providing job opportunities for people of differing abilities, as well as support services for veterans and their families. Through MVS’ Vets Ready2Work program , Melwood connects veterans with job and community resources that support success – regardless of their differing abilities.

“Vernecia’s story is not only a personal success, but also a boon to veterans who come through our doors,” says Cari DeSantis, president & CEO of Melwood. “She’s a testament to how workforce programs are supposed to help each person rise to their best level of accomplishment.”

Increasing Job Opportunities

A chief goal of the Vets Ready2Work program is to increase prospects for competitive employment regardless of a veteran’s differing abilities. Career preparation is coupled with connections to essential community services, like those for housing and health care.

Some veterans come to the program with a clear understanding of what they want to do in civilian life, which sometimes means continuing the work they did in the military. For others, the Department of Labor online career assessment offers veterans a chance to identify their interests and abilities in many types of professions.

The process at Vets Ready2Work involves writing a career development plan to lay out individual initiatives and goals. Veterans use their plans to guide them through the program as they craft résumés, sit for mock interviews, and practice the realities of civilian job-hunting, such as developing a LinkedIn profile.

To further help close the unemployment gap among America’s heroes, job opportunities also exist within Melwood and can be accessed via Internships are available with a select few of Melwood’s high-profile corporate and organizational partners. In 2017, 4-out-of-7 summer interns at one partner location were offered full-time meaningful employment.

Help Melwood Support Veterans

If you or someone you know is a veteran interested in participating in the Vets Ready2Work program, contact Melwood at

There are multiple opportunities to support Melwood Veterans Services during May, which is National Military Appreciation Month, and throughout the year. You can make a financial contribution, donate your vehicle, or volunteer as an individual or workplace. Learn more at

In addition to MVS, Melwood offers community, recreational, and vocational support services to persons of differing abilities. Through federal and private contracts, Melwood employs more than 800 people of differing abilities.

About Melwood

Melwood is an AbilityOne organization, and one of the largest non-profit employers of people of differing abilities in the Northeast U.S. Melwood has a highly competitive and inclusive workforce, providing a range of services to federal, state, and local governments, and the private sector. Using an innovative and effective social entrepreneurial model, Melwood offers job placement, job training, life skills for independence, and support services to more than 2,100 people each year in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Maryland, and Virginia. Melwood also provides recreation opportunities through seasonal inclusive camp programs for children and adults of and without differing abilities. In addition, Melwood provides employment and support services to veterans coping with a variety of service-related traumas, such as post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, abuse, and more. Melwood employs more than 1,500 workers, including more than 800 persons of a differing ability. Since 1963, the 501(c)(3) organization has envisioned a world in which people of differing abilities are fully included by advocating for and empowering them to transform their own lives through unique opportunities to work and play in the community. For more information, visit

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