A Veteran Gives Back

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Don Andrus is a proud U.S. Army Disabled Veteran with 26 years of honorable military service. His distinguished 26-year career involved 14 separate tours of duty stateside and overseas, including Haiti and Honduras. Don earned several military awards and decorations including the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the Adjutant General’s Corps Order of the Horatio Gates (Bronze) Medal awarded for distinguished achievements and service to the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGCRA).

In the military, Don served in several different roles, including Human Resources. “I worked with many veterans with disabilities and witnessed how unaddressed mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder affected their chances of gaining or retaining employment.”

After retiring as a Sergeant First Class in 2010, Don himself struggled to obtain employment in his career field. He then decided to pursue his lifelong goal of earning a college degree, graduating “magna cum laude” with a BA degree in Management and Human Resources from Park University. He was accepted to the Masters of Rehabilitation Counseling Program at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to work towards a career as a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. “I want to give back and help veterans with disabilities live independently and adapt to the civilian work culture.”

Don is making great strides towards his goal. As a Graduate Research Assistant, he has co-authored articles including “Examining the Impact of “This Is My Brave” on Mental Illness Stigma and Willingness to Seek Help: A Pilot Study” involving a study with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) El Paso’s Peer-to-Peer Education Program for adults with mental illness.

When he is not working on his degree, Don is an active volunteer in the El Paso community, helping at Special Olympics events and participating in several community-led group forums that focus on mental health awareness. For his efforts, he was featured in the UTEP Alumni Magazine for his work with the Opportunity Center for the Homeless of El Paso.

Helping Expand Vocational Opportunity at PRIDE Industries

To gain more practical experience and insight into working with veterans with disabilities, Don joined PRIDE’s contract at Ft. Bliss, TX as a Rehabilitation Counseling Intern in September 2018. PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss Integrated Facilities Management contract employs around 530 people, including 272 employees with disabilities and 68 veterans. With a team of Rehabilitation Counselors and Job Coaches, PRIDE identifies disabled veterans’ abilities and transferable skills for customized job placement and employment sustainability.

In his position, Don assists the Vocational Rehabilitation team with caseload management to maintain AbilityOne® compliance. He makes appointments with our employees, writes accommodations for disabilities or medical issues, schedules sign-language interpreters, and helps conduct the annual AbilityOne® evaluation process. Through individual assessments, Don also provides employees with resources and guidance, connecting them with the Employee Assistance Program or scheduling Functional Capacity Evaluations.

“When I evaluate an employee’s needs, exhibiting empathy and compassion are crucial when learning about their challenges and obstacles,” said Don. “As a result, my communication, critical thinking and listening skills have all improved throughout my internship.”

Don has already made a significant difference in the lives of our employees. Recently, a PRIDE employee and veteran reached out to describe his positive interaction:

I wish to express my total appreciation to Don Andrus for our meeting on Thursday morning. He exhibited a professional attitude, and I felt that he genuinely wanted to get to know me. Don put in an effort to understand how I think and operate. I look forward to our next meeting; he is an excellent counselor in the rehabilitation department.”

We have been privileged to work with Don at PRIDE Industries and wish him the best as he continues his path to earning a career as a VA Vocational Counselor. “It’s been truly exciting to work with PRIDE Industries and have an opportunity to apply my military and human resources expertise,” said Don. “The Ft. Bliss Rehab team has over 25 years of cumulative experience, and it has been a wonderful experience to learn from them.”