Research Summary

Research Summary: VA Vocational and Education Training and Assistance Services – Experiences Reported by Veterans with Disabilities

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A Quick Look

Veterans Affairs (VA) vocational and education services help veterans with disabilities transition from the military to civilian society. Veterans identified numerous facilitators that can be used to enhance these programs. The objective of this study is to understand the experiences of veterans with disabilities and caregiving needs who use Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vocational and education services, including Supported Employment.

Key Findings

  • Veterans cited important barriers at the VA and academic institution levels that could be addressed by bolstering frontline staff to coordinate between vocational rehabilitation, health teams, and academic counselors/employers to ensure veteran success.
  • VA vocational and education services helped veterans with disabilities transition from the military into civilian life by providing skills and incremental exposure to engaging in everyday life tasks.
  • Veteran motivation, caregiver support, and engaged staff at VA and academic institutions were key drivers of veteran success.
  • Veterans who experienced challenges cited the following barriers: health problems, concerns about benefits loss if they became employed, and VA and academic programs that did not accommodate the needs of nontraditional veteran learners.
  • Most veterans in the sample reported more than one health problem and many reported both physical and mental/cognitive limitations.
  • Respondents reported that military-related injuries altered veterans’ job skills and capabilities.
  • VA vocational and educational services provided financial support and guidance to help them develop new skills, qualifications, and connections for identifying work opportunities.
  • Participants acknowledged that the structure of the programs helped veterans readjust by providing exposure to tasks needed to function successfully in civilian life.
  • Veterans expressed a strong desire to use these services to identify meaningful ways to engage in post-military life, whether it be for job development or education that leads to future employment or general self-improvement.
  • Findings suggest the need to bolster VA vocational and educational services for veterans with disabilities by modifying the roles of frontline staff and increasing integration between vocational counselors and health care teams.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Veteran impediments to school and work included mobility limitations and pain and cognitive processing issues.
  • Veterans felt impediments prevented them from keeping up with peers.
  • Stress and anxiety led to high levels of reactivity that negatively affected their interactions with others.
  • Some participants perceived that VA program staff had limited understanding of adults with disabilities based on how they applied program assistance.

Learn More

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