4/30/2014

How ClaimVets Is Changing Lives

ClaimVets addresses the underemployment of veterans while responding to the claims talent crisis.

By Eric Gilkey

The brainchild of Executive Director Adam Potter and CLM’s executive board, ClaimVets is a national, registered nonprofit dedicated to providing a pathway for veterans to enter the claims profession. Its goal is two-fold: address the underemployment of veterans and respond to the claims talent crisis in our industry.

Heading up the effort is Laura Cornish, who knows a thing or two about claims and risk. She previously served in risk management leadership positions for Honeywell International and Colgate-Palmolive and has held executive claims positions with Tyco International and Marsh USA Inc. She explains the genesis of ClaimVets, how it will work, and the goals it hopes to accomplish for 2014.

You kicked off ClaimVets with a fundraising dinner last month in New York. How did it go?

It was amazing. We had 200 people attend, and highlights included a silent auction and a USO show. We premiered our video about ClaimVets, which was donated by Promotion Arts. Since it was a black-tie event, we had men in tuxedos, women in gowns, and were honored by members of the military in full-dress uniforms. It was a great industry event, as well. Every major insurer and broker was represented by at least one person, if not a table, along with several risk managers.

I would really be remiss, though, if I didn’t say, “thank you,” to all of the supporters and volunteers who donated time and resources to make the inaugural fundraising dinner a success. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to start to solve this huge problem for our country and our industry.

What are the goals of ClaimVets?

We really want to help veterans gain employment through a career in the claims industry. At the same time, we need to educate the public about the claims industry, improve its reputation, and work to change the negative perceptions. We need to show that a career in claims is something worth pursuing.

We spoke with those in the military to see if a program like ClaimVets could work, and we came up with a plan to do upfront recruiting to those outside the officer ranks, since veteran officers typically don’t face the same challenges as enlisted veterans. To be a good claims professional, you need traits like being well-organized, adaptable to change, an ability to work under stress, and excellent time-management skills. With that in mind, those enlisted veterans are as good a candidate for claims as any—if not more so. The unemployment of veterans and the underemployment within the claims industry makes ClaimVets a natural fit and win-win for everybody.

What services will ClaimVets offer?

ClaimVets will underwrite the costs to recruit and train veterans to become claims professionals and facilitate the procurement of an adjuster’s license. But it goes beyond that. We will provide access to office skills training, suitable clothing, and job placement services if needed. Additionally, with the support of the CLM network of 25,000 members (and growing), we have the ability to ensure success through a strong mentoring program and continuing education and networking opportunities. We want to remove as many barriers as we can. ClaimVets also is partnering with insurers and TPAs to create a pipeline of available positions.

One of the key things that we are offering veterans is relocation assistance. If there is an entry-level claims position in California, most companies wouldn’t offer relocation assistance to someone living in New York. That’s something unique that ClaimVets will do. It will pay to relocate a veteran to help them pursue an opportunity in claims.

How are you connecting with military personnel?

We are still finalizing our strategy, but we feel strongly about taking a multifaceted approach. We expect to utilize veteran-focused websites such as military.com and the Department of Labor’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), as well as partnering with other organizations focused on veterans’ employment like Hiring Our Heroes and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On the other side of the equation, we’re asking insurers where they have job openings so we can help find people for them who might fit their profile.

What do you hope to accomplish in ClaimVets’ first year?

We’d rather learn from our mistakes than not make any progress. As Albert Einstein said, “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” With that in mind, we are focused on understanding how we can develop a robust training program, recruitment pipeline, and mentoring network. At the same time, we are working with our key partners in the insurance and TPA industries to identify their needs. It’s a daunting task, but by the end of the year, we hope to have 25 veterans trained and working as claims adjusters.

What should insurers and TPAs expect when they hire a veteran?

Veterans are unique individuals, and many have faced challenges beyond our imagination. That means they bring unique skills and perspectives to the table that can be leveraged by smart insurers and TPAs. Claims adjusting is a service profession, and veterans have lived a life of service. Recognizing their desire to serve and how to fuel it will be invaluable.

One thing we have discovered is that employers may need to adapt for veterans. They have to be willing to make accommodations and be flexible because many veterans have special needs or situations. For instance, companies that require an entry-level employee to have a college degree need to understand that not all veterans will fill that prerequisite. However, most veterans have acquired real-world skills in the service that more than make up for it.

Companies have to recognize that these are unique circumstances, and we’re helping facilitate veterans coming back to civilian life. That’s not as simple as saying, “Here is some training and a job—now get to it.” The key is mentoring and providing them a support system. Most veterans are used to working in a team environment, so we want them to use the CLM network, which has embraced this program with open arms.

Who are some of ClaimVets’ key partners?

We are still identifying our key partners, but we have had serious dialogues with several companies that have experience in this area or recognize the importance of hiring veterans and understand their high degree of transferable skills.

USAA is a great example since they were founded by military and hiring veterans is a part of their culture. They are one of our major sponsors, and we have quickly formed a partnership to learn more about their program, Combat to Claims, which focuses on hiring veterans for their company. We are working together to explore what’s worked and what hasn’t so we can eliminate barriers already encountered. We also have had great interest from companies like CNA, State Auto, Zurich, Gallagher Bassett, and Sedgwick that want to work together to get our veterans trained and hired.

How can other companies get in touch with you to learn more?

Send an email to laura.cornish@theclm.org or call me at (732) 533-5622.



Eric Gilkey is executive editor of CLM Magazine, a publication of the Claims and Litigation Management (CLM) Alliance. He may be reached at 513-273-8025, eric.gilkey@TheCLM.org.

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