Engaging Veteran’s with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors in National and Community Service

May 21, 2011

This post comes from Joanne E. Cohen, M.A., Organizational Consultant, CTAT at Denver Options and liaison to the National Service Inclusion Project. It was originally published on HandsOn Blog.

The Corporation for National and Community Service(CNCS) values initiatives and programs that engage veterans and military families, grow a knowledge base of how national service can best meet the needs of veterans and military families, support efforts that engage veterans who want to continue service in new ways at home, and promote effective collaboration with our veterans, military family members, and veteran-serving organizations.

To support CNCS in this effort, the National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP), a CNCS training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion, is collaborating with the Center for Technical Assistance and Training (CTAT) and Operation TBI Freedom (OTF) at Denver Options.

This initiative is identifying promising practices, products, and delivery strategies. Most importantly, veterans, including those who are current or former AmeriCorps or other national service volunteers, will inform this work extensively. Information from this work and related products will be made widely available to veterans’ groups, national service programs, and the disability community to guide the practice, policies, and procedures of service programs as they recruit and support veterans with disabilities.

The following narrative summarizes seven interviews that were conducted during 2010 with veterans who are current AmeriCorps members or alums. Of the seven, five have a disability. Of the five, one did not disclose the nature of his/her disability, one had a “traumatic disability” that he/she did not want to discuss, one has post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and physical disabilities unrelated to the military, one has a head trauma as a result of being in the military, and one has PTSD that has not been officially diagnosed along with a disability that has been diagnosed through the Veterans Administration.

Themes:

Common themes emerged from the conversations:

  1. All interviewees expressed a passion to help people, including Veterans.
  2. Many described how AmeriCorps provides them the opportunity to get back into the workforce—additional skill sets are developed, it is a great addition to their resume, and they believe it is impressive to potential employers.
  3. Interviewees articulated that service and volunteerism is a satisfying and structured opportunity to serve our country in another way, giving back to the community and committing to someone else’s well-being, life, happiness, and education, while making an impact on others’ lives and helping the “under served” to help themselves.
  4. Through AmeriCorps, these veterans felt a sense of belonging, regaining their identity. AmeriCorps gets them out of their comfort zone, stretching and learning a great deal.
  5. AmeriCorps promotes change while making our country and the world better equipped to meet actual needs of others.

The following is a quote from one of the interviewees, an anonymous veteran who served in AmeriCorps:

“My experience as a volunteer in the AmeriCorps program has given me the will to get out of bed every day. It has given me the education and the knowledge to understand my disability and it gives me a purpose in life. If you don’t have a purpose in life, it’s hard to get out of bed every morning.”

Joanne has over thirty years combined experience in coaching, consulting, and facilitation. She was in a car accident in 1992, experiencing her own TBI and PTSD. It is with this experience that many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who return with TBI and PTSD relate to her. Joanne is proud to serve as a liaison to this project.

Engaging Veteran’s with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors in
National and Community Service
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Session ID: 5210

As part of the larger CNCS initiative to engage veterans in national service the National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) collaborated with Denver Options’ Center for Technical Assistance and Training (CTAT) and Operation TBI Freedom to launch the Engaging Veterans with Disabilities Initiative guided extensively by information from veterans, especially current or former AmeriCorps or other national service volunteers. Join us for an informative and interactive session that presents outcomes from 1:1 interviews and discussion groups and engages participants in an interactive discussion that highlights promising practices for engaging veterans with disabilities and Wounded Warriors in national service. Twitter Hashtag: #NCVS5210


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