Helping Veterans Help Themselves
Kimberly Haley Encourages Disabled Veterans to Get Ahead in Life
Kimberly Haley wants to help people excel and move forward in their careers and lives. In her job with the New York State Department of Labor, she helps disabled veterans in a variety of ways, from finding a job that best fits them, to teaching veteran yoga classes in her community. Being a veteran herself helps her connect firsthand with this unique population so she’s able to provide them with the aid and guidance they need.
Haley, of Oneida, New York, joined the Maryland National Guard in 1982 and became an LPN and medic for the military. After leaving the Guard in 1985 and then completing active duty service in the Army Reserves, she decided to pursue her higher education. She didn’t want to follow a nursing path any longer, so after some vocational testing, she found human services to be good fit. She earned an associate degree in human services from Herkimer County Community College in 2003 and, after remembering she took courses with Regents [now Excelsior] College while she was still with the Guard, decided to re-enroll with Excelsior. In 2006, she earned a bachelor’s of science and moved forward with her career. She says, “…the associate was like a stepping stone and the bachelor’s was like the icing on the cake. That’s what got me [my] job.”
In her current position as a New York State Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist—a job she has held for the past 10 years—Haley helps disabled veterans find jobs and training opportunities. The range of services Haley provides in her position are vast: long-term case management, assessments and referrals, on-the-job training, resume critiquing, job matching, accessing post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and even recommending the veteran to potential employers. The DVOP also helps veterans with mental health problems, substance abuse, homelessness, and post-incarceration issues.
Haley enjoys “steering the veterans in the right direction” and her favorite part of the job is “seeing the veteran walk away with re-training and accelerating in life, and being able to sustain the means to their life, being able to provide for themselves or their families.” Some of her cases have lasted longer than others; they’ve involved seeing a veteran every two weeks for years. Ultimately, says Haley, the best part is finding out they finally landed a job. Haley says it’s all worthwhile when she meets the veteran again and they thank her for the help she provided.
Haley has worked with veterans ranging in age from 19 to 80 years old and thinks that being a veteran gives her an advantage in this role. When veterans find out Haley has served in the military, they become more at ease and can connect with her better. “They’re more likely to disclose, knowing that you know where they’re coming from,” Haley says.
To better help the veteran population, Haley believes in serving them in her local community, as well. She volunteers in a variety of capacities—from washing dishes to teaching yoga—at Clear Path for Veterans in Chittenango, New York, which connects service members and their families to the resources they need. She also teaches yoga at the Oneida YMCA.
A registered yoga instructor, Haley developed a style of mindful resilience yoga specifically formatted to help veterans. The style is in line with the ideas of the Veterans Yoga Project, an educational and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of military veterans, and she has been teaching mindful resilience yoga since 2017. So far, Haley has seen great results from her yoga. It has proven effective in helping people with post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, dementia, and sleep disorders. She plans to continue teaching yoga classes after she moves to a part-time position with the DVOP in a few years when she’s eligible for retirement.
Her interest in mindfulness led her to begin pursuing a master’s in counseling with Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, in fall 2018, and she’s focusing on mindfulness studies to help the veteran population. In 2017, she joined the New York Guard State Volunteer Force.
Haley is always looking for things to be involved in and says, “There’s always something to be learned and there’s always something to be taught.” She has wanted to learn and help others since she was young, but had never thought she would end up assisting disabled veterans. Because of her desire to do more for her fellow veteran, though, she now makes an impact on many lives.
More from Kimberly Haley
Best book/podcast/e-newsletter that’s relevant to your industry:
“New York State Department of Labor website. There you would find just about everything you need to know about getting a job, maintaining it, and re-training.”
Best piece of business advice received on the job so far:
“Always keep moving forward with your education and you are never too old to pursue another degree.”
Networking tips you would give to current Excelsior students:
“Talk to friends, family, and around your area, especially where you will reside in, to utilize all their resources for the occupation you have chosen.”