How veterans care will continue to expand

How veterans care will continue to expand

by Brittany Deatherage
Wounded Warrior Project

Veterans care is an issue with broad support. There is little debate that we should provide military men and women with the finest in care. However, as more soldiers return from war on various fronts; veterans care must adapt to new challenges.

Different soldiers face common obstacles in making the transition to civilian life. PTSD and other trauma are on the rise, but it takes time to shift resources and change policies. While fighting overseas, many soldiers do not have the time to acquire technical skills or pursue their education. This puts them at a disadvantage in their job search. War related injuries may affect mobility and the sense of independence.

There have been policy changes in the wake of delays at V.A. hospitals. A new deal enables vets to seek care at Medicare doctors and through programs outside the V.A. Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are also expanding outreach to wounded soldiers. A focus on delivering support at the local level is underway.

Here is how this change is occurring:

Medical Care:
V.A. benefits may not cover certain services. VSOs that provide support services for limited mobility, PTSD and war injuries improve quality of life beyond medical care. This includes service dogs, adaptive sports and family support.

More VSOs are starting local chapters that make it easier for vets and their families to get support. Gary Sinise, Bill O’Reilly and Elliott Broidy are among the outspoken supporters of Wounded Warrior Project initiatives. The national VSO has unveiled the Independence Program, which provides local support to wounded veterans that require constant care from family and caregivers. Families receive respite care, counseling and help with maximizing their veterans benefits.

Service dogs assist veterans in several ways beyond sight, sound and mobility. A PTSD dog guards the back of a veteran waiting in line. The comfort of a service dog offers assurance against loud noises or crowded spaces. Local VSOs help match veterans with service dogs at no cost. Assistance dogs reflect a trend to provide care beyond what VA benefits may cover.

Many nonprofit groups are also carving out niche programs wounded veterans. Warfighter Sports features sled hockey, kayaking and track activities for injured soldiers. The program is part of Disabled Sports USA, a national non-profit that offers adaptive sports for the physically handicapped.

Adaptive sports allow vets to improve their fitness and build camaraderie. Wheelchair basketball or rowing helps with injury recovery and to rebuild lost strength. Sports are a fun and effective complement to typical physical therapy. Veterans also regain a sense of independence after the traumatic loss of limbs or certain senses.

Classes and training specific to veterans is a growing trend. The Transition Training Academy (TTA)  is an example of this setup. A program from Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), TTA teaches skills for jobs in Information Technology, a rapidly growing field. The curriculum is tailored to veterans with TBI, PTSD and other anxiety issues. Cisco and the Department of Labor teamed with WWP to start the program. TTA shows how government, private industry and nonprofits can collaborate for veterans care.

Universities are also offering options for wounded veterans. The University of Illinois recently launched a program to support student veterans. Colleges will continue to adapt their services as more student soldiers return to school.

Job Placement:
Soldiers learn technical and intangible skills during warfare. The military operates high tech equipment that requires extensive training. Veterans also have leadership qualities and experience working with diverse groups of people.

However, parlaying this into a job search can be difficult. VSOs, colleges and employers are making efforts to show the value that soldiers bring to civilian jobs. Warriors to Work is a program that assists soldiers with goal setting, interview skills and job searches. VSOs also build employer networks of companies eager to hire talented veterans. .

Recruiters that specialize in placing veterans have also sprung up. Orion International works with military officers, soldiers and technicians for job placement.

Broad support for veterans care continues to spark debate. The question is not ‘if’ but ‘how’. Please contact local VSOs and programs if you would like to volunteer.

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