The following press release was originally issued on October 27, 2015 and authored by DirectEmployers partner, Easter Seals Dixon Center.

The Honorable Robert A. McDonald to keynote “Heroes Work Here” Seminar in Chicago on Nov. 3 to help Midwest-based Companies Expand Veteran Hiring Programs

More than half of separating post-9/11 Veterans will face a period of unemployment, with Illinois facing higher veteran unemployment rates than the national average. In response, The Walt Disney Company, Easter Seals Dixon Center, and USAA are bringing the Heroes Work Here initiative to hire, train and support veterans to Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at Venue SIX10. The Honorable Robert A. McDonald, United States Secretary of Veteran Affairs, and Staff Sergeant Travis Mills will keynote the complimentary event for business leaders, human resources and recruiting professionals.

Leading up to Veterans Day, the daylong conference is designed to educate and inspire business leaders from Midwest-based companies of all sizes to build or expand their own veteran and military family hiring programs through special employer and veteran panels, workshops and presentations. Sec. McDonald and SSG Travis Mills, one of only five surviving quadruple amputees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, will headline the event’s elite group of speakers. The seminar will also feature remarks from U.S. Army Veteran and best-selling author J.R. Martinez. Disney Veterans Institute, in partnership with Heroes Work Here, will lead a special session to help share knowledge on how companies can build their own veteran-hiring programs.

The event is presented in partnership with Easter Seals Dixon Center, which will lead discussion panels focusing on veteran hiring and retention, personal stories from veterans and military spouses who have transitioned into the civilian workforce, as well as state and federal resources available to both veterans and organizations looking to employ them. Panelists and moderators will include representatives from Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, USAA, Sears Holdings Corporation, The Bunker Labs, Student Veterans Association and WLS-TV.

“Since our Heroes Work Here initiative launched in 2012, more than 6,000 former servicemen and women have become part of the Disney family,” said Paul Richardson, Chief Diversity Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “Veterans are a huge asset to companies across the nation and giving employers the tools they need to hire and retain them is something we are very proud of.”

“One out of every five of our youngest generation of veterans faces unemployment, with Illinois facing higher unemployment rates for veterans than civilians,” said Chairman of Easter Seals Dixon Center Military and Veterans Services U.S. Army (Ret.), Colonel David Sutherland. “At Easter Seals Dixon Center, we believe our veterans are among our nation’s best and brightest. By working with leaders who share this belief, like Disney and USAA for Heroes Work Here, we’re transforming how our nation supports veterans and military families on the home front — reconnecting with potential employers, loved ones, neighbors, higher education, health/wellness and more.”

The event builds on the success of Disney and USAA’s regional Veterans Institute seminar in Detroit last June, which attracted more than 300 participants who were trained by experts from Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative on best practices for helping veterans make a successful transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

“As an organization created by the military for the military, hiring veterans and military spouses has been a long-standing practice at USAA,” said Mike Kelly, retired Air Force officer and assistant vice president of military advocacy at USAA. “We take a holistic approach, with programs focused on recruiting, transition assistance, skills development and retention. But it’s not enough just to hire these valuable resources. That’s why we’ve made it a priority to share our best practices with other employers.”

UBS, Chicago-based Sears Holding Group and Indianapolis-based DirectEmployers Association are supporting sponsors of the seminar. Roz Varon, anchor of media partner WLS-TV, will be the event emcee.

For employers interested in launching a veteran hiring program or expanding an existing one, please register at

About Disney’s Heroes Work Here

Supporting the U.S. Armed Forces has long been a Disney tradition, and Disney’s Heroes Work Here continues that proud legacy with a companywide initiative to hire, train and support military veterans. Disney introduced the program in March 2012 with a commitment to hire at least 1,000 veterans by 2015. Having exceeded that goal in the first year alone, with 1,300 veterans hired, the company announced in March 2013 that it would create opportunities for another 1,000 former service members over the next two years. To date, Disney has hired more than 5,000 veterans through Heroes Work Here.

Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative also features a public awareness campaign to encourage employers across the U.S. to hire former military service members. The campaign includes the free Veterans Institute workshops, as well as public service announcements highlighting the skills and experience of veterans who work at Disney. The PSAs direct viewers to the White House’s Joining Forces website ( and have aired across Disney’s media properties including ESPN, ABC and ABC Family, making more than 500 million impressions.

The third component of Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative is philanthropy. Disney’s philanthropic support of veteran and military organizations has exceeded $1 million since the launch of Heroes Work Here, and through the Disney VoluntEARS program, employees have engaged in several service projects with veterans organizations in communities around the country.

About Easter Seals Dixon Center

We believe our veterans and military families can succeed where they live. Our mission is to ensure that’s possible in every community. We work to break down barriers, drive a new conversation about the potential of our veterans, engage organizations and communities, and connect veterans and military families with what they need for meaningful employment, education and overall wellness. Our national credibility and community-based reach – through 74 affiliates and 550 service sites – provide an unmatched, accessible resource and support for veterans and military families. Learn more at

About USAA

The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to 11.2 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit

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