When Maurice Bullard came to Operation PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), the Desert Storm/Desert Shield Army veteran hadn't had what he calls "a real career-type job" in more than 15 years.
Bullard, a 42-year-old paraplegic who became injured when shot by a carjacker in Detroit, his hometown, was a certified auto mechanic, with a growing interest in IT. But, other than odd jobs here and there, fixing small electronics and the occasional car problem, he was having no luck.
"I went all over the place," he recalls, "from Detroit to New Orleans, where I lived until Katrina, back to outside New Baltimore, Michigan, then finally to Houston in 2008. But I wasn't having a whole lot of luck."
A NEW PATH.
At that point, he entered Paralyzed Veterans' PAVE Program and began to work with vocational rehabilitation counselor Keisha Wright at the Audie Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio.
I more or less felt I didn't get a lot of help with programs elsewhere, but to come here and find this program—everything changed from there.
Wright started working with Bullard in June 2009. "Maurice had difficulty presenting himself well on paper and in person—he was coming off as monotone in interviews," she says. "We worked on that, while I was looking into leads and helping him with sending out résumés. He didn’t want a long commute and wanted to complete his computer studies. I was able to get him a work-from-home position in the IT arena."
By mid-July, Bullard had received a job offer from Austin-based Knowbility, where he worked in online document remediation, making government documents accessible for screen readers for the blind. At the same time, the $15 per hour job allowed him to continue with his computer studies.
"Keisha is great," Bullard says. "she found me great jobs and opportunities I thought I would never have gotten again—the work and the pay. She finds (employers) who are willing to talk to me and don’t mind that I have a disability. She gets the job done."
COMING FULL CIRCLE.
Bullard resigned from Knowbility in February 2011 when he was offered a temporary position with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Bullard found himself working in the homeless veterans program as an employment specialist, assisting his clients in ways Wright once helped him.
"I help the vets get jobs," he says. "I love the work but it's a bit of a physical strain, going where the vets are, so I would love to finish my technical degree."
Summing up his PAVE experience, Bullard says "I love the program; it really changed everything for me. If you are a veteran who is motivated, you will go far. I've seen it happen—it happened to me."