Going the Extra Mile: A Conversation With a Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program Specialist

Peter Pritchard

Recently, the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service checked in with Peter “Pete” Pritchard, an 84-year-old Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialist in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to hear about his experiences serving veterans during the pandemic.  

Pritchard has a wealth of experience in his role as a DVOP specialist, including service in multiple branches (U.S. Navy and Air Force), decades of employment, post-baccalaureate education, and years of community service. These varied experiences have contributed to his knowledge and understanding of what does and doesn’t work for individuals, especially veterans, seeking employment in today’s job market. “The period of adjustment from military to civilian life can be a huge challenge for many veterans, despite when they transitioned out of service,” he said.

As a DVOP specialist, he provides individualized career services to veterans who face significant barriers to employment, with an emphasis on serving veterans who are economically or educationally disadvantaged, such as veterans experiencing homelessness and vocational rehabilitation challenges.

“In my 14 years as a DVOP specialist, one of the most significant lessons I’ve learned serving veterans is that life situations and experiences aren’t always what they appear to be,” he shared. “It’s my mission to help veterans identify their challenges, and chart a new path forward.”

COVID-19 has presented a lot of new challenges. While many of the veterans he serves are recently separated, he has also found himself supporting more 50-to-75-year-old veterans who have experienced sudden unemployment because of the pandemic.

“Conducting a contemporary job search can be difficult for anyone these days, but many veterans experience additional challenges finding meaningful civilian employment,” said Prichard. “It’s not just knowing how to write a sufficient cover letter, develop a résumé and interview, but also learning how to overcome barriers, build new skills and deal with change.”

As just one example, a 43-year-old veteran with a 70% disability rating recently came to him for assistance to put together an individual employment plan. In just over a month, he was able to help her apply for and be hired in a position that makes good use of her skills and training, and provides her with great job satisfaction.

Pritchard is one of about a thousand DVOP specialists around the nation making a difference for disabled and disadvantaged veterans.

DVOP specialist positions are made possible through our Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) program, which provides federal funding through a formula grant to 54 State Workforce Agencies that hire dedicated staff to provide individualized career and training-related services to veterans and eligible people.

Maria Temiquelis the director of grants and training for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. Follow VETS on Twitter at @VETS_DOL and on LinkedIn