A nonprofit organization in Elmira and Corning is starting a new advocacy program catering to veterans.
The AIM Independent Living Center helps with resume-building, access to education and retraining programs, and much more to help veterans transition back into civilian life and be in a productive position physically, mentally, and monetarily.
Nathan Benton is a Marine Corp veteran and when he moved back to the area, he graduated from Elmira College through the vocational rehabilitation program, but it wasn’t easy.
“I struggled making my way through the system because there was nobody actually advocating for me,” Benton, the veterans’ advocate at AIM, said. “It was me fighting for the services by myself, kind of going head-to-head with the counselors and the road blocks of the system.”
His experience runs true with veterans across the country and it’s why he’s part of the newly launched veterans advocacy program at the nonprofit. His job is to provide a voice for veterans, disabled or not, looking for employment or looking to stop living on the streets
New York State’s unemployment rate is 4.5 percent as of November according to the Department of Labor, but that statistic is higher for veterans and even higher for female veterans.
He believes veterans are discriminated against in the application process because of the stigma around post traumatic stress disorder, but he says they are some of the most productive people to have as employees.
“Even if you are a veteran with PTSD, you’re not defective in any way and you shouldn’t feel defective in any way and a hiring manager shouldn’t treat you as if you are.”
He’s also trying to start a program to educate hiring mangers on misleading information surrounding PTSD.
Additionally, he’s working to collaborate with local organizations that are trying to increase their services to veterans such as outreach programs.