Highlight: Upstate Warrior Solution

Sara Chuzie Uncategorized

In February of 2018, Upstate Warrior Solution (UWS) received a phone call from a social worker at the VA who referred an Army veteran to our Greenville Office Director for assistance with legal and housing issues. This veteran served twelve years in the Army and was medically retired a few years ago. Around the same time that this veteran called, a local furniture store called our office stating they had some gently damaged furniture. We connected the store with this veteran, who had recently been housed, and they delivered the furniture to this veteran’s new home. In addition, we helped this veteran by referring him to SC Legal, along with continuing to work with the VA for additional resources and further assistance. This veteran’s quality of life has improved significantly and he is doing much better. This case is an example of how we can impact the veterans in our community by leveraging our local partnerships. When this is done successfully, we are able to greatly improve a warrior’s quality of life.

America’sWarriorPartnership.org © 2018 America’s Warrior Partnership and Upstate Warrior Solution. All rights reserved. Case Study.

Highlight: Palmetto Warrior Connection

Sara Chuzie Uncategorized

As Jason Perry sat in front of a computer, looking for work again, he ran across an ad for a veterans’ program. A Veterans for Manufacturing training was being held at Goodwill for two weeks. “This is my chance”, he thought, “my chance to get back on my feet”.

Jason enlisted in the United States Navy right out of high school. While in the Navy he was an aviation machinist, specifically working on jet engines. After getting out of the Navy, he later went to work for Boeing. During his time at Boeing, as a direct hire, he performed manufacturing duties for their aircrafts.

About five years later, Jason was in a terrible car accident. He broke several bones in his body including his neck and back. The road to recovery was going to be long and he agreed to voluntarily resign from his position at Boeing. Just over one year later, Jason was fully recovered from the accident and was ready to get back to work. However, he discovered he couldn’t get his old job back and finding employment became difficult.

A Veterans for Manufacturing program funded by a grant from Boeing, in conjunction with Operation GoodJobs and Palmetto Training Inc., was just what somebody like Jason needed. He thought, “I’m ready to get back to work! This is a great opportunity to grow as a person.” He hoped to get a refresher in manufacturing, and maybe learn something new.

Getting enrolled into Operation GoodJobs and applying to the Veterans for Manufacturing program provided hope that he could be successful again. This program was the “difference between success and poverty for me. It affords me the opportunity to be stable again, so it means a lot,” Jason said during his interview for the manufacturing program. Jason passed all of the screenings, did well on the interview, and was selected for the program. The Operation GoodJobs staff tried to inform Jason of the good news. They sent emails and left messages with his brother, as Jason didn’t have a phone of his own. Friday evening Jason called back and received the news, “Really? That’s great news, thank you so much!” Jason exclaimed, followed up with many questions so that he could be as prepared as possible for the first day of training that next Monday.

Throughout the course of the two-week program, Jason would be dropped off and picked up by his mom. Between Jason, his mom, and his brother, they shared one vehicle. Some days he would get the car and drive himself to class. Even with having to share one car amongst the three of them, he was never late and never missed a day of the program. He was very dedicated to the program.

The last day of the program was graduation, followed by a mini job fair set up with local manufacturing companies. The day before graduation mock interviews were held along with evaluations of appearance and interview performance. It was then that the Operation GoodJobs staff learned that Jason didn’t have shoes or clothes appropriate for job interviews, nor the money to buy such articles. Through Palmetto Warrior Connection’s housing advocate and Palmetto Goodwill’s clothing voucher program, Jason was able to get some shoes and a new jacket for interviews the following day.

Jason graduated the Veterans for Manufacturing program, collected his certificate, and focused on his interviews. As a result of completing the program and interviews at the mini job fair, he was offered positions from more than one company and ultimately accepted a position with DC Machine. That same day, Jason inquired with the PWC staff about getting some aid to pay for rent that month. Palmetto Warrior Connection’s Housing Advocate, along with team members, worked to get a check request in with Palmetto Goodwill. The fact that Jason just accepted a new job, and would be starting soon, made the team feel confident that Jason would not become dependent on financial aid and, therefore, was able to receive help paying for his rent. In December of 2017, Jason was selected by Palmetto Goodwill and Palmetto Warrior Connection to receive a donated car which completed his independence and positively impacted his ability to get to his job and to sustain his employment. Jason has been doing very well at his new job in the manufacturing industry and has surpassed expectations. He is well on his way to being fully independent and self-sufficient. “Thank you so much for all your help and giving me this opportunity to get back on my own feet”, said Jason.

America’sWarriorPartnership.org © 2018 America’s Warrior Partnership and Palmetto Warrior Connection. All rights reserved. Case Study.

Highlight: Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York, Inc.

Sara Chuzie Uncategorized

LaShandra, an Army veteran, contacted the Veterans One-stop Center in 2014 for assistance with housing. Her homelessness was due to domestic violence and she and her children had taken shelter at the Cornerstone Manor. She was referred by the Health Care for Homeless Veterans to the Veterans One-stop Center’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program.

She had previously held a position as an LPN but lost it due to her chaotic life. She maintained a positive outlook while she waited for a HUD VASH voucher for her housing. LaShandra’s family was also adopted by the Veterans One-stop Center’s Adopt-a-Family program for the holidays. She was able to move into her new apartment with plenty of Christmas gifts for herself and her children.

She has received financial counseling through Consumer Credit Counseling, which assisted her with credit repair and budgeting advice. She also plans to return to work after addressing some issues that she has with her eyesight. LaShandra’s positive outlook helped her through a desperate situation. She had hope and focus and never gave up.


America’sWarriorPartnership.org © 2017 America’s Warrior Partnership and Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York Inc. All rights reserved. Case Study.

Highlight: Upstate Warrior Solution

Sara Chuzie Uncategorized

Home and belonging mean something different to each of us, and Lee Mahaffey learned the importance of those two ideas early in life. While he was a South Carolina native, Lee moved around the state, and he and his mother never quite settled anywhere. As a small boy in bad neighborhoods, Lee learned the hard lessons of perseverance and determination, how to fight and press on, but he also learned to love adventure and new people and places. He lived everywhere from a car to a beach to a trailer to a hotel. Home became more of a feeling, a sense, rather than a place, and as Herman Melville once wrote – “it wasn’t down on any map; true places never are.”

After attending twelve different schools, Lee finally became the first person in his family to go further than 9th grade, graduating high school. Not settling, feeling the tug of adventure and travel and compelled to do his part, Lee joined the Marine Corps in early 2005 under an open contract without the guarantee of any specific occupational specialty. “I just want to do my part, do my job, and be a part of history,” he told the recruiter in Greenville, SC. The Marines assigned him as a driver in a motor transportation unit aboard Camp Hansen, Okinawa, but he soon injured his shoulder during an operation. Lee was placed in charge of training, but as his nagging to deploy peaked in August 2006, the Corps sent him to Iraq.

Once in Iraq, Lee ended up on route clearance teams tasked with removing enemy explosives along main roads. Traveling over much of Iraq, he also landed on security teams and behind vehicle-mounted machine guns. While posted in Al-Taqaddum called “TQ” adjacent to infamous battlegrounds Habbaniyah and Fallujah, Lee suffered a debilitating blow to the head. Yet, Lee persisted, finished his tour in Iraq, and returned to Okinawa in the spring of 2007 before being transferred to Camp Pendleton, CA. Lee was married the same year and welcomed a daughter to the world the following year. However, the extent of Lee’s injuries wasn’t known until he collapsed during physical training and was sent to the naval hospital. Assessments revealed he couldn’t continue service and was discharged after a stint in the Corps’ battalion for the wounded.

After moving back to Greenville, SC, and months of aimlessness and losing numerous veteran friends to suicide, Lee connected to Upstate Warrior Solution (UWS) through a VA social worker. Recognizing Lee’s perseverance and potential, UWS extended a fellowship, and Lee soon found himself deep in the veteran community of upstate South Carolina. The first veteran he encountered, a fellow Iraq veteran said, “I’m tired of people telling me I have 100% disability rating, and I should just be happy. Sometimes, I just drive home the same way every day and I see this tree and I just want to drive my truck full speed right into that tree. I just want to get some rest.” Lee understood immediately and convinced the veteran there was hope. The next person he met was from another generation, a Vietnam veteran, and the two talked at length. Lee slowly realized how much he could do for him, what resources he could tell him about. Hope swelled in the veteran’s eyes. Lee knew his new friend wouldn’t go home and make a bad decision, one he couldn’t undo. The gentleman stuck out his hand, and Lee gripped it saying, “If you ever need anything or if you just want to shoot the breeze, call me.”

The man replied, “This is what I needed more than anything today. You just don’t know what you’ve done for me.” Lee said, “I think I have some idea, sir. You’re so very welcome.”



America’sWarriorPartnership.org © 2017 America’s Warrior Partnership and Upstate Warrior Solution.

A Special Forces Medic Finds Success through Tierney Center

Sara Chuzie Affiliate Success Stories

(Highlight: Tierney Center for Veteran Services at Goodwill OC) Josh was referred to the Tierney Center by a Veterans Resource Center (VRC) Manager for Coastline Community College. Josh is a post-9/11 Army Veteran who served as a Special Forces Medic. He suffered from an extreme Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with limited mobility and work capabilities. Josh was enrolled in courses at Coastline Community College but his post-9/11 GI bill benefits were held back for months due to a clerical error. To make matters worse, he also lost his job at the local REI and found himself in a financial crisis.

Josh, being a resourceful green beret, had already done the leg work with the VRC Manager to get his post-9/11 GI bill clerical error fixed to receive his stipend for school. However, this error combined with the
loss of his job resulted in Josh not having money for his rent. To further complicate the situation, Josh was renting a room in a house where his name was not on the residential lease agreement. As a result, this disqualified him for Supportive Services for Veterans and
Families (SSVF). The Tierney Center reached out to their sub-grantee, Volunteers of America’s Battle Buddy Bridge, to coordinate a plan with Josh. Battle Buddy Bridge and the Tierney Center combined funds to cover the overdue rent and keep Josh in his home
with the understanding that in time, Josh would be able pay rent on his own. Josh is still active with the Tierney Center and comes to every Veteran Business Network mixer. Josh currently trains service animals for veterans like himself. He usually brings us a new furry recruit to meet.

Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York Inc: The Marine, Andrew

Sara Chuzie Affiliate Success Stories

For four years, the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY has provided support to Veterans going through the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, a special court for drug and alcohol addicted veterans. This support empowers the recovery of these veterans by embedding a staff member in the courtroom for the weekly court dates that provide wraparound services in collaboration with the Veteran mentors and other service providers. In the fall of 2016, one of the VOC of WNY’s Veteran Outreach Advocates and Marine Corps Veteran, Jeff Gramlich, met another young combat Marine who had recently been transferred to Veterans Court. The Marine, Andrew, had been medically retired in 2015 after 5 years of service. A year later, Andrew was unemployed, had gotten a DWI, and was living with family in an unhealthy situation. To add to Andrew’s stress, he was also trying to navigate the complicated immigration process to bring his wife to the United States. This proved to be Andrew’s biggest concern, and Jeff was able to connect the Veteran with an attorney, who completed the paperwork necessary for his wife to join him. After discussing his options, Andrew decided to move in with a friend to alleviate the unhealthy components that had added to his problems in his previous living situation. As his life began to stabilize, Andrew expressed interest in going back to school to pursue an advanced degree. Andrew had already completed his Bachelor’s and exhausted his GI Bill, so Jeff was able to connect Andrew with the VA Vocational Rehabilitation program for the online program that he wanted. Andrew had also begun experiencing additional serious medical issues that were related to his service, so Jeff connected him with a Veterans Service Officer to increase his current disability rating, which is at 70%. The claim is still pending but Jeff should be notified of a decision very soon. America’sWarriorPartnership.org © 2017 America’s Warrior Partnership and Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York Inc. All rights reserved. Case Study. The VOC continues to remain engaged with Andrew, but Jeff notes that Andrew is admittedly in a much better place than he was when VOC advocates initially met him. They will continue to follow up with Andrew and look forward to being part of Andrew’s empowerment as he continues his transition back to the civilian world.

Highlight: Tierney Center for Veteran Services at Goodwill OC

Sara Chuzie Affiliate Success Stories, Uncategorized

Miguel, a Post-9/11 veteran and student at Cypress College, was referred to the Tierney Center by our education partner, Cypress College, for the Orange County Real Estate Emergency (OCRE) fund. This fund is the direct result of data collection from seven participating colleges to identify VA benefit usage, gaps in service and student’s awareness of the Orange County veteran space. The main focus of this fund is to keep students on track to graduate. Miguel was discharged from the Army in 2013 under general conditions. This discharge status poses many barriers for veterans by blocking their access to important veteran educational benefits. However, this fact did not stop Miguel from obtaining his education goals. Totally determined to advance his education and skills, Miguel enrolled in the Cypress College Automotive Technologies Program without access to his education benefits. Partner relationships are vital in integrating local resources to best serve our veteran population. In Miguel’s case, two major barriers were defined. The first barrier was Miguel’s access to education. The second barrier was Miguel’s discharge status. Knowing an upgrade in his discharge status would take time and resources, a School Certifying Official from the Cypress College Veteran Resource Center immediately set up funding for Miguel’s books, entrance fees and tuition for the first semester through a California state program for low income students. To cover Miguel’s second semester, approximately $450 was provided by the Tierney Center via the OCRE fund for tuition. Books and admission fees for his second semester was provided by the Cypress College Foundation. Working collectively has helped Miguel remain in school and on track to graduate in January 2019. To mitigate his second barrier, the Cypress College enlisted the help of Veteran’s Legal Institute (VLI). VLI has been a long standing pro America’sWarriorPartnership.org © 2017 America’s Warrior Partnership and Tierney Center for Veteran Services at Goodwill OC. Allrightsreserved. Case Study. bono legal resource and partner of the Tierney Center here in Orange County, California. They have an excellent track record with discharge upgrades. Veterans Legal Institute is also a participant of the America’s Warrior Partnership Community Integration subgrantee program. Although this upgrade service will take time we are certain Miguel’s discharge status will be upgraded allowing him to be eligible for veteran educational benefits just in time for his second year of studies.

Highlight: Palmetto Warrior Connection

Sara Chuzie Affiliate Success Stories

Tisha McCollum is a Navy Veteran who served from 1991-1995. Tisha was discharged from the Navy in 1995 and went to work as an insurance agent for 6 years, then worked for a financial institution and in the cosmetology industry. When a long term relationship ended, Tisha became the sole provider for her four children. With two of the children in college and two other teen-agers to support, Tisha began to struggle to make ends meet. In addition to the financial struggles, Tisha also grappled with the mental health of her two children at home, one with ADHD and the other with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as her own issues with depression, PTSD and her transition to civilian life. These struggles overwhelmed Trisha, and she and her children found themselves homeless. Trisha was able to receive help through SSVF (Supportive Services for Children and Families) and the VA HUDVASH program; through these programs she and her family moved into an apartment. Initially, she was responsible for the entire rental amount, until the program kicked in and provided relief. In October of 2016, Hurricane Matthew came through Tisha’s hometown of Charleston, SC. Mandatory evacuation protocol resulted in the family having to pay for a hotel room and food, causing a financial hardship for them. Tisha reached out to PWC for assistance and was helped by Housing Advocate, John Myers. Mr. Myers contacted community groups who help with utility and water bills. When asked about the impact of PWC assistance, Tisha stated that she feels more relieved, relaxed and motivated since PWC was able to help her to get back on track with her bills. She feels “hopeful and grateful” that she will find her way to success and is thankful that PWC was able to clear a path for her to make improvements in her life for herself and her children. Tisha said “I’m not where I want to be as far as success but I am on my way and thanks to you (PWC) my vision is a little more clear to know that help is out there and that there are people out there who care about people like me.”

Highlight: Goodwill Industries of Orange County

Lori Noonan Updates


Menzi Salazar, a post-9/11 Army veteran, has a service-connected disability, and was unemployed. She was referred to the Tierney Center for Veteran Services by one of our community partners, Adrian Conger at the OC OneStop.  Caleb Garcia, one of our Job Developers, then began assisting her.

Menzi served in Germany as Mess Administrative Specialist in the Army.  She is bi-lingual in English and Tagalog, an Austronesian language with about 57 million speakers in the Philippines.  She is currently married to another Army veteran, who is a chef, and they are raising a child together. Currently Menzi and her family are living at her father’s home.

One of the barriers to employment Menzi experienced was her interviewing skills, due to her shyness. Additionally, she was considered over-educated because she has earned two Masters Degrees and a law degree.

When Menzi came to us she had been through more than 20 interviews without being employed.   At that time, she was discouraged and desperate and was willing to take any job. She was even tempted to take commission-only jobs, sales jobs or waiting tables.

Menzi was interviewed by our Veterans Services Manager, Jeff Pagano, and by our Vocational Rehabilitation Program Supervisor, Bill Morisette.  Bill and Jeff identified and agreed that Menzi’s interviewing skills were weak and needed improvement.  At that time Bill Morisette took over her case and did a resume analysis with her and readjusted her resume to fit several Federal jobs to include the EEOC, Social Security Administration, Department of Labor and a few others. These positions were more in line with her education and skills, as well as her aspirations.

We invited Menzi to attend one of our Veteran Business Network mixers, where she could connect and meet other veterans in business in Orange County.  There we met her husband, Chris. This allowed Menzi to become more self-confident in meeting new people and being social in a business context, make some connections, and get some business cards for follow-up.

Through the Tierney Center Menzi went through more than five hours of one-on-one interviewing skills training.  We also had her husband there to observe what she needed to work on. He also worked with her in mock interviews at home to help her build her skills.

After she was confident that she was prepared for interviews we sent her to the EEOC to interview for an investigator position, in Los Angeles, where she was the second person on the hiring list for a direct hire.  Bill Morisette talked to the hiring manager, Tom Profit the Director of HR, where he reported her interviewing skills were fine, it was just her job skills did not match the position being offered.

Bill then setup an interview for Menzi with the District Manager, Tiffany Simmons, of the Social Security Administration where after the interview she referred Menzi for a background check and wanted her for a paid internship as an administrative assistant.

That same week Bill setup an interview for her with Social Security Agency in Garden Grove, CA for an administrative clerk position with Lance Lee, the District Manager. The interview went very well and she was offered a paid internship but no position as they were under a hiring freeze at that time.

Bill also set Menzi up with an interview with the department of Labor.  Menzi met with Nancy Ise, The Director of Investigations for an Examiner/Investigator position, but was not offered the position.

Menzi was given a second interview with the Director of the Social Security Administration in Garden Grove and got the paid internship on November 7th where she now works.

In an email from Menzi to Bill Morisette before she got the internship, she said, “I can never thank you enough for giving me pointers, Chris and I practiced last night. We drove and found the place right away.”

Bill heard from Menzi recently and she said she is applying for two new positons with the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Labor that she heard about through our email blasts. Even though she is in the start of her internship she continues to actively pursue a permanent position. Menzi continues to maintain weekly communications with Bill on how her internship is going.  Menzi loves her new internship and hopes to get hired permanently.

Before when we met Menzi, she was doubtful and discouraged, but now she is upbeat and has much more confidence and hope about the future for her and her family. With her new confidence and skills, we know she will do well.



© 2016 America’s Warrior Partnership and Goodwill Industries of Orange County. All rights reserved. Case Study.