May is Mental Health Month. One program within VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is a valuable resource for Veterans’ emotional well-being: employment. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Vocational Rehabilitation Service (VHA Voc Rehab, not to be confused with VBA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment) promotes recovery for certain Veterans by helping them achieve and maintain meaningful employment.

Compensated Work Therapy (CWT), a program offered through VHA Voc Rehab, improves Veterans’ mental health because it helps Veterans with functional or emotional conditions find or return to work.

Social determinants of health

Access to employment is one of the social determinants of health (SDOH), which are the environmental conditions where Veterans live. When Veterans have access to positive SDOH, they have better health outcomes.

Partnerships are important to VHA Voc Rehab’s work, because the CWT team partners with national and local employers to provide Veterans with employment, including within VA.

“Meaningful employment means hiring the right Veteran in the right job at the right pay,” said Donna Tasker, national marketing director for VHA Voc Rehab. “Our staff members are vocational rehabilitation specialists who provide employment support and services to both the Veteran and the employer at the work site. They ensure the right job match continues.”

The Vocational Rehabilitation program helps match Veterans with jobs.

Help for Veterans with previous convictions

VHA Voc Rehab’s CWT support is also available to Veterans who have had previous convictions or incarcerations. Those can keep Veterans from getting work and leave them unable to access related SDOH (such as housing, financial security and health care).

Tasker notes employment is key to Veterans’ mental health.

“Studies suggest that work contributes to the recovery process by providing meaning in one’s life. Consequently, that can promote recovery in participants. Employment provides meaning, stability, a sense of community and self-identity.”

VHA Voc Rehab is available for Veterans who are eligible for VA health care and who are living with mental illnesses or physical impairments, which can be barriers to employment. As a result, the CWT program’s services, Ms. Tasker said, are highly integrated with a Veteran’s clinical care of any kind.

Helps employers hire the right Veteran

Employers should also be aware that the CWT program’s services are available. “We can also provide services to our employer partners to hire the right Veteran,” Tasker said.

VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE) helps create partnerships throughout VHA. Many OCE-managed partnerships support SDOH.

“Partnerships that support the SDOH and Veterans’ mental health are critical and CWT’s employer partnerships do just that,” said Dr. Tracy L. Weistreich, OCE chief officer. “Employment is, in fact, one of the SDOH that OCE is focused on for this year’s VHA Community Partnership Challenge. OCE recognizes just how valuable access to that resource is for Veterans.”

Tasker agrees: “Strong partnerships ensure that each Veteran has the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, abilities and capabilities.”

Veterans and employers can learn more about VHA’s CWT program here.

Learn more about partnerships supported by OCE here.

Dr. Jamie Davis is a health systems specialist for OCE.

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Published on May. 20, 2020

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  1. Dustin Dills June 6, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    I have suffered a severe case of PTSD and it has caused me to lose a very fine job running heavy equipment. Those I worked for were ignorant to the fact I suffered and ridiculed me to the point of a breakdown. I just wish to work in an environment that is conducive to my needs.

  2. James P McGregor May 30, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Not sure where in the good Ol’ USA you guys live, but here in Louisville KY there is a property mgmnt company called Heart of America that is veteran owned and he’s always willing to help other vets.

  3. jerry May 28, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    for me, job placement in bay area california has been difficult, there are no jobs for my skills and line of work, and no one seems to want to hire veterans around here, all the companies that advertise vet preference do not hire vets, for example union pacific rail road in oakland ca, myself and a few other veteran buddies all applied and not one of us got a position and was reported as not being considered for employment, we have a non veteran friend who is a mechanic there and has told us they hired some one as an entry level instead who was not a veteran and had no mechanical training or experience. there are no job opportunities with usa jobs or fedshirevets or the va in my area unless you work in tech or medical and have a degree of sort. im in school, pending my voc rehab to be finalized but covid19 put everything on hold, my unemployment was terminated, jobless and dont know what to do, the jobs that are available are small wage jobs such as pizza delivery and such fit for a teenager or someone who is single and with no family. i have worked in automotive for Ferrari, Maserati, and Tesla and going to school for aviation, i have a pretty good background in automotive electrical and electronics, multiplexing, CAN systems and BUS, there just arent any jobs left out there unless you you have the certificates that they require and dont mind working for pennies, ive worked in automotive for years without being required any licenses or ASE certification. rent here in the bay area is too expensive and these jobs just dont pay any more.

  4. Jerry Walz May 28, 2020 at 11:07 am

    This program really really does work. I hope that they keep it going not because it is just another sponsored good works program for Veterans, but because it works and it is a win win for everyone.

  5. Jim Phelan May 28, 2020 at 8:43 am

    I have a staffing service that operates in the northeast and I am looking to help veterans fins jobs/careers. How do I see their resumes?

  6. Barbara Anderson May 28, 2020 at 5:41 am

    More info please

  7. Claudette Russell May 28, 2020 at 1:37 am

    What would recommend if you completed a CWT

  8. Gary R Smith May 27, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    how do I get this program,

  9. Steven A Nihipali May 27, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    I’ve been coded unable to work, yet I still do. I quit driving rideshare because of maintenance issues. Found part time though. Now I’m trying to fill my life with just “busy work”. Woodworking, yard work, stuff around the house. Normal things every man should be able to do.

  10. Jamie D. Davis May 21, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    CWT is an amazing program. I’ve learned so much about it recently, and am thrilled to support and promote their good works! As a previous VA psychologist, I worked with CWT with several Veterans who really benefited.

    • Stan A Barlow May 28, 2020 at 6:54 am

      THis is totally false at my VAMC. You get told “your a special case” and that they can’t help.

  11. Kimberly Bishop May 20, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    Socialization and feeling a sense of accomplishment from work are both great for well-being. It is hard for veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions to work in environments that are not supportive. CWT sounds like a good start.

Comments are closed.

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