Jason Dills was serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2007 when he injured his neck. As he was in the middle of a war zone without access to x-ray machines or other diagnostic equipment, he simply went to the medic tent, took a bunch of aspirin, and went back to his duties – unaware that this seemingly minor injury was anything but.
One day he woke up temporarily paralyzed in bed. He couldn’t move and his arms were numb. An orthopedic surgeon told him he had degenerative bone disease in his C6 and C7 vertebrae. Three months later, he jumped into a swimming pool to tackle his son off a float, hit the water, and everything went limp. The move had paralyzed him permanently.
He was introduced to PVA while at the VA spinal cord clinic in Augusta. He says he has learned a lot from the organization through materials and publications, but he is especially thankful for the help he’s received from Genia Hachenberg, his Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with PVA’s Veterans Career Program.
Jason was a frequent visitor to a government jobs website, and realized a degree in Business Administration would help him get the kind of consulting job he wanted. He reached out to PVA, and he and Genia got to work on his plan.
“Genia helped me find a good university fit, told me how to get into it, who to contact and helped me find the program that would be best suited for me,” said Jason. “She helped me with my resume. And we worked through all of this before I ever enrolled.”
She set me up for success before I ever started actually taking classes.
While he was still in school, Jason came across a job opportunity he wanted to pursue. He went through three days of training, but on day one of his job the entire computer network went down. That’s when Jason realized that trying to find work and going to school was a little too much for him, so he decided to finish his education first.
And he did, just recently obtaining his degree in Business Administration. While he waits for his degree to arrive in the mail, Genia is helping Jason look for career opportunities, without any pressure – something Jason says really works for him.
While Genia regularly sends Jason information on job seminars, and makes herself available for questions, she lets Jason be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what to pursue.
“Nothing is ever forced on me,” says Jason. “I like being able to work at my own pace and take the time to look at things and evaluate them for myself without somebody saying, ‘You’ve got to do this; you’ve got to do that.’ Genia is a pleasure to work with.”
Ultimately, Jason would love to help other Veterans navigate the VA system of care, because he remembers being that guy in the spinal cord injury unit with lots of questions. “Once I am 100% done with my educational journey, I would like to work for the VA to be a Veteran consultant to help educate Veterans. My ultimate goal is to try to help them get through a lot of the red tape and give them guidance. I want to help them through their journey.”
Today, the Southeastern Chapter member lives with his significant other and their two children, a son and daughter. He is looking forward to his future as he looks for a great career fit, and is grateful for PVA’s guidance during his education and job search.
“PVA has been very helpful. Working with the Veterans Career Program was pretty much seamless.”