DAV proudly presented its annual employment awards during the 2022 DAV and Auxiliary National Convention in Orlando, Florida, in August. The awards recognize employers who go above and beyond to recruit, retain and invest in veterans in the workplace, as well as those helping veterans find meaningful employment. For more information regarding the DAV Patriot Employer Program, please visit this link.
“Quality employment is essential in empowering veterans to lead productive, purposeful lives after service,” said DAV National Employment Director Rob Lougee. “DAV is grateful to have such dedicated employers and individuals as partners in our ongoing mission to ensure veterans—particularly those with disabilities—find fulfilling careers. It was our pleasure to recognize some of those partners in front of thousands of our members and supporters.”
For its Large Employer of the Year Award, DAV recognized WPS Health Solutions, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit health care insurance company. The company was selected for the national-level honor over numerous other businesses with 1,000 or more employees.
WPS was founded in 1946 to meet the health care needs of returning World War II service members. In the more than 75 years since, the company has shown its dedication to military veterans through its recruiting initiatives, support groups and mentorship programs.
In 2015, in an effort to enhance its recruiting and hiring of veteran candidates, WPS Health Solutions created a military affairs manager position to work closely with its Human Resource Talent Acquisition Team. Once veteran employees are hired, WPS Health Solutions provides several resources to set them up for success. The Veterans Enhancement Team was created as an employee resource group for its roughly 100 veteran employees to build camaraderie. The group also serves as a mentorship resource and has implemented a companywide Meet Our Veterans initiative.
“WPS Health Solutions knows firsthand that our veterans are an amazingly capable group of employees. The leadership skills, soft skills and ability to grow greatly benefit our company’s culture and success,” said Military and Veteran Inclusion Lead Timothy La Sage, a Marine Corps veteran. “We are honored to support and mentor these employees and grateful for this recognition of WPS Health Solutions’ long-standing mission to serve those who served.”
WPS also supports several state Honor Flights, the Green Bay Packers’ Operation Fan Mail program and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and many more veteran initiatives.
For its Midsize Employer of the Year Award, DAV recognized Sierra7, a Virginia-based government contracting and consulting company dedicated to hiring and supporting veterans.
Founded in 2009, Sierra7 provides technological solutions and services to civilian and defense agencies across the federal government. Their solutions improve health care outcomes for veterans, enhance readiness for the warfighter and streamline processes for federal law enforcement. Sierra7, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, was selected for the national-level honor over numerous other businesses with between 250 and 999 employees.
Since 2020, Sierra7 has hired 166 veterans, over half of whom identified themselves as disabled veterans. Around 25% of its overall workforce comprises veterans.
“Sierra7 is committed to hiring service members, veterans and military spouses with diverse expertise and experiences to better serve our clients,” said CEO and Navy veteran Rafael Fagundo. “The military community has played a key role in shaping the mission of our organization to provide high-quality, reliable services to federal agencies that support service members and veterans.”
In addition to its recruiting and hiring efforts, Sierra7 offers tuition reimbursement for certifications and degree programs. The company is also implementing a veterans leadership program designed to teach and empower veterans in their personal and professional growth, along with an employee resource group for veterans.
For its Small Employer of the Year Award, DAV recognized Aristech Surfaces LLC, a Northern Kentucky-based company committed to recruiting, hiring and training veterans. Aristech Surfaces LLC was selected for the national-level honor over numerous other businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
Founded in 1970, Aristech Surfaces LLC manufactures surface and design materials and distributes them to clients across the globe. Of the roughly 190 employees at its Florence, Kentucky, plant, more than 10% are veterans. The company actively recruits military veterans and fosters their success through support groups, special events, training opportunities and thoughtful policy that values military experience.
“Aristech Surfaces LLC, now part of Trinseo, is committed to honoring and employing our nation’s veterans,” said Aristech Vice President of Human Resources Ruth Moore. “We intentionally craft an environment where veterans are welcome and appreciated. It is our way of thanking the people who serve our country and put themselves on the line for us.”
DAV also recognized two individuals for their efforts in helping veterans connect with meaningful employment and improve their quality of life. Navy veteran Serena Bermudez was named the 2022 Outstanding Local Veterans Employment Representative.
Bermudez, of Woodbridge, Virginia, has been a veterans employment representative with the Virginia Employment Commission since 2015. In her role, she prepares veterans for the workforce and connects them with local employers in the public and private sectors. She also regularly speaks to various military and community organizations in her area about veteran employment and benefits resources.
“Her contributions to the [Virginia Employment Commission] and her local community have been nothing less than outstanding,” said Edward DuPass, her supervisor. “The focus she puts on assisting these veterans is beyond extraordinary, especially those with significant barriers to employment.”
Nancy Brown was recognized as DAV’s 2022 Outstanding Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program Specialist.
A Navy veteran of Wausau, Wisconsin, Brown is a veterans employment services specialist with Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development. In this role, she connects those who served with employers across nine counties in the north-central part of the state. In the past year, she’s case-managed 39 veterans with significant barriers to employment, helping 31 of them find meaningful employment.
“[Nancy] is very passionate about helping the veterans that come to see her,” said Derek Jablonicky, her supervisor. “She treats each one with respect and compassion no matter what the situation they bring to her.
“She gives them renewed hope there is something for them.”