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National Council of

Social Security Management Associations

Veterans Non-Paid Work Experience Program

Monday, August 1, 2016


Have you ever wished you had some additional interviewers in your office to help with SS5s or CDRs; perhaps extra bodies to help visitors fill out lengthy DDS forms, assist at the SSA Express kiosks, or just take proofs, mail letters, or call appointments ahead of time to decrease no-show rates? Maybe you wished someone could help you check-in the initial rush of visitors in the morning, or check your lobby pamphlet racks to ensure they are properly stocked. In a time of diminishing resources, we must all be creative in the manner in which we get some much-needed help. Many of us share the same sentiment when it comes to hiring: we just cannot get enough hiring slots. There is a way, however, to get additional help without needing a hiring slot: Non-Paid Work Experience Programs. Although you may have heard of such programs, you might not know how to take advantage of them. Well, look no further! Read on, to get all the information you need to get started. Although we will focus on the Veterans Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) Program as an example, the general guidelines are the same for other acceptable volunteer programs. Information on additional acceptable volunteer programs is found at: SSA National Guidance - Volunteer Services.


The Veterans Non-Paid Work Experience Program is one aspect of the Coming Home to Work Initiative. It is part of the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) early outreach effort to provide eligible veterans with the opportunity to obtain training and practical job experience concurrently. Qualified participants must have clearly established career goals, the ability to learn easily in a hands-on environment, and are in need of additional civilian work experience. All participants have already been preselected and are actively working with a VA counselor to find employment that best fits the individual’s interest and strengths.  


Benefits for Veterans


• Participation helps those veterans with limited work experience to establish or expand their employment histories.

• Participation increases veterans’ ability to hone skills developed under their vocational rehabilitation plan.

• Participants may be exposed to employment opportunities within SSA.

• Participants are paid a monthly subsistence allowance from the VA.


Advantages for SSA


• Case Managers identify and pre-screen eligible veterans.

• After placement in an NPWE Program, a VA Case Manager closely monitors the veteran’s progress to ensure that all training goals are met.

• Participants are highly skilled and may be good candidates for future employment with the agency.  

• NPWE Program participants are not considered “employees” so there is no charge against FTE allocations.

• SSA does not pay for any salary or benefits; NPWE Program participants receive a monthly subsistence allowance from the VA.

• The NPWE Program allows SSA the opportunity to evaluate the veteran prior to consideration for hiring in a temporary or permanent position.

• If a hiring slot becomes available, the NPWE participant can be converted to employee status within one pay period.

• NPWE participants are eligible to get a PIN assigned and are able to process some workloads after proper training (e.g., SS5s).


How to Obtain an NPWE Program Participant


1. Find a VA coordinator by locating VA facilities in your area at the VA website: Once you establish contact with the coordinator, inform them of your interest in hiring a veteran under the NPWE Program.


2. Contact the candidates participating in the program, as indicated by the VA coordinator, and select an NPWE participant through the normal interviewing process.


3. Fill out the necessary CHR forms and submit to your servicing specialist for the fingerprint-check to be completed. Forms you will need include: a current resume, Form I-9, DD-214, OF-306, SF-87 (two sets of fingerprint cards), SSA Veterans Volunteer Service Agreement (signed by SSA, VA, and the candidate), VA forms: VA 119, VA 27-8206, VA 22-8794, VA 28-1904.


4. Submit a request for volunteer clearance by following the guidelines specific to your region.


5. Wait to receive the email notification regarding program certification.


6. Once the email confirmation is received, contact the NPWE participant and the VA coordinator to set a start date that is mutually agreeable to both parties.


7. Follow normal procedures to get the NPWE participant a PIN assigned through your regional CSI component.


8. Enroll the NPWE participant in the necessary courses such as the Agency Fundamentals.  


That’s it!  You can have an extra body to help you interview SS5s or interview CDRs just by following eight easy steps! Additional information regarding this program can be found at: NPWE Checklist.


Easy enough, right?   The time you invest in getting this program started in your office will be worthwhile. Creating a relationship with your local coordinator will enable you to have access to qualified candidates who want the job experience and are eager to contribute to your office. Having a veteran volunteer in your office will help you test the person’s abilities for the job. Who knows, if you do get a hiring slot, you might not have to look much further than the NPWE participant already in your office!


By Susan Solorio

San Francisco Region


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