Roskam has hired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane Scherer is joining his district office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
As President Barack Obama addressed the American Legion Wednesday and stressed the importance of regaining veterans’ trust after the Veterans Affairs health care crisis, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane Scherer was in the middle of his second week as a congressional staffer.
Scherer recently began his new role as veterans constituent advocate for Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., the former chief deputy whip. Scherer will be based in Roskam’s district office in Illinois.
“I wanted to continue doing my duty for the public, so this is an opportunity to jump back in that role in a different setting,” Scherer told CQ Roll Call in a Wednesday phone interview.
The retired sergeant is part of the Wounded Warrior Program, which awards two-year fellowships in House offices to disabled veterans who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
According to Patricia Orsini, the director of the Wounded Warrior Program, a total of 135 veterans have participated in the program since it began in 2008. There are currently 40 Wounded Warrior fellows in the House.
“We just target disabled veterans who want to get hired and have an opportunity to really make a difference,” Orsini said Wednesday. She added that many fellows go on to become permanent staffers in Congress or at the VA. “It really opens doors, especially for those who want to stay in the advocacy field,” she said.
Scherer said that he was enjoying his experience working for Roskam so far, particularly “the opportunity to help people once again.”
Scherer was deployed in Afghanistan from July 2008 to May 2009. Eleven days before he was scheduled to return home, Scherer suffered life-threatening injuries during an attack on his base. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and spent months recovering and re-learning basic functions, such as walking and talking. Today he does not have any feeling in his left foot and hand.
“His remarkable recovery is a testament to his strength, resilience, and unparalleled determination to help the country he nearly lost his life defending,” Roskman said in a statement announcing Scherer’s hire.
According to Roskam, Scherer “will be responsible for helping our local veterans receive the care and attention they deserve.”
Scherer said his personal experience receiving care at a VA hospital will be beneficial in his new role, which will involve helping fellow veterans navigate the VA and other federal agencies.
“I understand the ins and outs in what it’s like to be involved in all levels of care in the VA,” said Scherer. “I relate and can connect on a very personal level, having the same experience.”