Investigator Durham VA HSR&D Durham, North Carolina
Objective: To identify facilitators and barriers that Veterans with disabilities and caregiving needs encounter when using the following Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vocational/education services: (1) Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) Post-9/11 GI Bill, (2) VBA Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E), and (3) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Supported Employment (SE).
Design: Interview. Setting: Telephone. Participants: 26 Veterans with disabilities (e.g., traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder) who used a VBA or VHA vocational/education program at least once, and their family caregivers. Interventions: None. Main Outcome Measure(s): Interview responses regarding facilitators and barriers to using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, VR&E, and SE. Results: Veterans were in their early 40s and the majority (85%) of caregivers were spouses. Respondents reported that the Post-9/11 GI Bill and VR&E services provided financial support for degree programs/skills courses to meet post-military goals, and SE provided targeted job searches. Respondents reported positive Veteran outcomes, including increased self-confidence, social skills development, academic accommodations, degrees/other qualifications, and short-term employment as Veterans addressed their new limitations. Veteran motivation, caregiver support, and engaged VA and academic counselors were key factors for vocational/education services success.Reported barriers to vocational/education services use or success included Veteran physical health, mental health and cognitive limitations, fear of benefits loss, as well as insufficient guidance and limited perspectives from VBA, VHA, and academic counselors on the potential of Veterans with disabilities and possible accommodations.
Conclusions: Generally, respondents relayed positive experiences with VBA and VHA vocational/education programs. However, given the obstacles noted by respondents, especially among VBA vocational/education services, VBA counselors partnering with VHA clinicians to better manage health conditions in a vocational/education setting may provide Veterans with the support they need to better address gaps in service.
To describe Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) vocational/education programs.
To describe challenges Veterans with caregiving needs experienced in trying to access or use VBA and VHA vocational/education programs.
To describe Veterans’ positive experiences with VBA and VHA vocational/education programs.