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Veterans Administration establishes vocational rehabilitation counselor at PSU
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: April 17, 2012

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has established a full-time “Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor” at Portland State University (PSU) to assist the growing number of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mark Lettiere, an Air Force veteran, who has worked with the VA for 12 years, started the position on March 15 as part of a program called VetSuccess on Campus. Lettiere’s job is to help vets understand the VA benefits and community resources available to them during their adjustment back to civilian life.

VetSuccess started as a pilot project on 10 college campuses throughout the United States, and was recently increased to 24 campuses after the pilot phase ended.  PSU is one of the 24, and is the only campus in Oregon with this program. Lettiere said PSU, with about 1,000 veteran students, was chosen for the VetSuccess program largely because it has a higher proportion of veteran students than other Oregon campuses. It was also chosen for its location in downtown Portland.

 “PSU has a long history with veterans; they were some of the first students involved with the development of the campus after WWII,” Lettiere said. “The veteran population on campus is expected to grow exponentially as we see a new group of returnees.  We want to make sure they feel welcome, help them transition to civilian life, and we want PSU to continue to be a magnet for veteran students.”

Lettiere’s assignment is to help vets with:
•    Information on VA benefits such as life insurance, home loan guarantees, vocational rehabilitation and employment, Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, health care, and other services
•    Guidance and support while using VA educational benefits
•    Information and referrals to VA medical centers and the local veteran’s center
•    Employment information and assistance in selecting a suitable career
•    Outreach to various departments within PSU about VetSuccess on Campus
•    Working with PSU in developing and coordinating on-campus job fairs.

The VA’s Portland Regional Office also employs an employment coordinator, Elizabeth Harris, who meets with employers throughout the metro region to promote the hiring of vets.  Harris is a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer with a background in recruiting. 

Veteran unemployment is higher than the national average. Part of the VetSuccess program is to let employers know about federal incentives for hiring veterans, and the strengths that veterans can bring to the job.

“This is a great way to let people know that hiring vets makes a lot of sense.  They’re disciplined, reliable, and they’re innovative -- all things that are important to employers,” Letierre said.

The VetSuccess program is located at suite 425 of Smith Memorial Student Union. Letierre is in the office from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and performs outreach services on campus and in the community Mondays and Fridays.  He can be reached at 503-725-9828, or mark.lettiere@va.gov.

Sidebar Announcement:

WHAT:    Carnegie Conversation -- Promoting the Success of Military Student Veterans.  It will feature a panel of PSU faculty, veteran students, and professionals working toward the success of veterans in higher education. Faculty and staff will have an opportunity to discuss strategies for promoting the success of military student veterans. The event is open to the public.

WHEN:    Thursday, April 26 at 3 p.m.  A wine and cheese reception follows from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Room 296 through 298, Smith Memorial Student Union, 1825 S.W. Broadway, Portland State University

RSVP:    Center for Academic Excellence, 503-725-5642, caestaff@pdx.edu

About Portland State University (PSU)

Located in Portland, Oregon, PSU has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. PSU’s motto is “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” and we provide every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. Our downtown campus exhibits PSU’s commitment to sustainability, and sustainability is incorporated into much of the curriculum.