Meet Karen Toomey, Army Veteran ~ Air Force Veteran (Vol II)


Growing up in a small town in Northern California, I did not have many options after high school. My parents were on the brink of a separation my senior year, leaving me feeling like I needed to disappear. My father’s influence as an Army veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars made my choice to enlist fairly painless.

I devoted twenty-four years of my life to the military. My first five years were in the Army; the remainder of my time was in the Air Force. Most of my career was spent in a Special Duty Assignment as a Recruiter. I retired from the Air Force in October 2006.

In October 2007 I began working for the Department of Veteran Affairs as a Veteran Service Representative (VSR). In this position, I had the honor of advocating for our Very Seriously Injured Veterans from the most recent war on terror. Working with gravely wounded Veterans showed me how my experience gained from working for the VA could make a huge difference in the lives of our Veterans and their families. 

After three years as a VSR, I became a member of the Rating Board, which I viewed as an opportunity to learn even more about how to better serve our Veterans. I spent five years as a Rating Specialist before making the transition to management as an Assistant Coach with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

I am the supervisor for the Development Team at the new Sacramento Satellite Office of the Oakland Regional Office. As the face of the VA, the staff of Public Contact works on the frontline, advocating for Veterans and their families. Personally, I see my entire life as a dress rehearsal for what I am doing today. I come to work every day with a smile on my face because I have the honor of serving those who have served—our Veterans.

Photographer’s Perspective

Karen Toomey, an intense woman with a warm smile, met us at the Veterans Benefits Administration office in Sacramento. After reviewing photo locations, she spoke to us about her commitment to the people she helps. “Working with each individual I consider how the particular VA claim can benefit them and how it may impact the family. The work is challenging but gratifying, especially if I can provide a positive outcome to someone who didn’t expect one.”

Karen chose the VBA training room for her portrait location. The array of flags in the background represent the branches of the United States military, and the Veterans Administration emblem are reminders of the responsibility Karen embraces when advocating for fellow veterans. To Karen’s right in the shadow box is the flag she received when she retired from the United States Air Force, a symbol of her service to our country. In the background is a favorite bust of Abraham Lincoln, a reminder of the Veterans Administration’s commitment to care for those injured in our nation’s defense and the families of those killed in its service.

Photo by James R. Morrison Photography