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April 24, 2014
Mrs. Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- In March 2013, Henry Benefield was one of 369 temporary employees who were released from Anniston Army Depot.

"After I was laid off, it took a while for me to find a job," he said. "A lot of places won't hire deaf people because of the noise level in their shops. So, it took me about two months to find work."

Benefield worked in the private sector for less than a year before returning to the depot thanks to an initiative originally created under President Bill Clinton and then strengthened in 2010 under President Barack Obama

According to the Office of Personnel Management, Executive Order 13548 directs executive departments and agencies to improve their efforts to employ federal workers with disabilities and targeted disabilities through increased recruitment, hiring and retention of these individuals.

Benefield is the depot's latest beneficiary of this policy.

He was originally hired at the installation in 2006 as a term employee working night shift in the Cleaning, Finishing and Painting Division. Three years later, he was moved to the Upholstery Shop where he spent the remainder of his employment.

When Benefield was re-hired April 14 under the Persons with Disabilities Program, he returned to the Upholstery Shop, much to the delight of his supervisor, Al Arisohn.

"He is a real asset to this operation and I'm thankful we got to bring him back under this program," said Arisohn. "I wish we could bring in others just like him."

As part of the Persons with Disabilities Program, federal agencies are encouraged to meet a goal hiring disabled individuals to fill 10 percent of the workforce.

The employee has to be someone not currently on the rolls, meaning Benefield wasn't eligible for the program until his temporary employee status ended in 2013.

Requirements also designate any employee considered for this Schedule A program to be severely disabled and have the documentation to prove it.

The depot's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center keeps résumés on file of employees who qualify for the program. It's then a process of finding a position, if one exists.

"I have worked for CPAC six years and it has been over four years since the last time we placed anyone using this program," said Melissa Lambert, a human resources specialist at the depot.

Lambert, as time allows, canvasses open jobs to see if there is a fit for one of the résumés on file. If a job is found, the potential employee's information is sent to the hiring manager to confirm they are qualified and capable of performing the job functions.

In Benefield's case, he was given the job he performed a year earlier -- applying Plastisol to parts.

"He's been doing it for years and is about the best we have on depot," said Arisohn. "Henry touches just about every program the depot works."

According to Lambert, once Benefield has completed two years of satisfactory service in his career-conditional appointment, he may be converted to a permanent position.

That moment can't come too soon for Benefield, who feels he is exactly where he needs to be.

"I'm back home," he said.