Virginia's Wounded Warrior Leesburg office serves local veterans
Source: www.bullrunnow.com/index.php/news/article/01373/ – JAMES IVANCIC
Discharged military veterans and their families can have a tough go of it once they reunite. The veteran usually has to find a job in the civilian sector, he or she may be coping with battle-related injury or stress, and the family has to reconnect after a long time apart. Roles change when one member of the family is away and a return can be stressful for everybody once the family is back together.
The state of Virginia tries to smooth the transition through the Virginia Wounded Warrior program operated by the Virginia Department of Veteran Services.
“The program was started in 2008 to help serve veterans who suffered a past trauma or traumatic brain injury. There was a feeling that not enough was being done,” explained Mark Taylor, program coordinator for Region 2, an area that includes Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties, as well as the cities of Arlington and Alexandria. The program divides the state into four other regions to serve veterans in those areas.
The region Taylor serves has the second highest concentration of veterans in the state.
“We provide clinical service, substance abuse assistance, and couple, family and group counseling,” Taylor said. The group also connects veterans with fellow veterans for peer-to-peer, veteran-to-veteran assistance. The peer support groups meet in places like churches and libraries close to where the veterans live. Those gatherings involve veterans meeting with each other to share experiences and help each other.
“We provide outreach, information and referral and connect veterans to other resources” when needed, Taylor said in explaining the program’s mission. He said his district gets 25 to 40 requests for service per month.
Taylor has a master’s degree in social work. Another member of his team has a degree in marriage and family counseling. Staffers with the program either have master’s degrees in social work, counseling or psychology, he explained.
While many of the veterans the program serves saw duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Wounded Warrior program is open to veterans of any conflict as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves. The only stipulation is that they be Virginia residents.
The program expanded from its original mission of serving veterans with combat-related injuries from any war to include any service-related injury or illness. That includes and vehicular accidents while serving and basic training incidents that curtailed military service.
The program supplements the services that can be obtained through the federal Veterans Administration program or in place of those services since the VA denies assistance to anyone with a poor discharge record and Virginia’s Wounded Warriors program doesn’t make that exclusion, Taylor said. “We don’t hold that against the veteran.”
In his work, Taylor travels through the region to meet with veterans in population centers like Woodbridge, Manassas, Sterling ad Chantilly, meeting in places operated by community services boards, veterans services or rehabilitation services.
“We do an assessment at the initial appointment“ to determine what the veteran needs and how the program can help. Taylor said.
“If a veteran needs mental health or substance abuse help we do that” since he and other staffers are trained to handle those problems. With other issues “we can help make the connections to other resources.”
Veterans of different generations can approach problems in different ways, but “all veterans face the issue of reintegrating into civilian life,” Taylor said.
“We serve veterans as well as family members. Redefining the roles within a family is a huge issue. The family figures out how to do things, then when the veteran returns and tries to resume control it’s not always needed or sometimes not welcomed,” Taylor said. Friction within the family, sometimes leading to domestic violence, can result. The program counsels couples and tries to deal with problems before they get out of hand.
The Wounded Warriors program doesn’t provide job search assistance itself but does help the veterans connect with those services.
The Wounded Warrior program served 1,650 veterans or their families in fiscal year 2010 and 3,617 in fiscal year 2011, according to James Thur, regional director of the program in Northern Virginia. Those are the numbers directly served. More broadly,“we reached 19,000 through 573 different events” in 2010. In 2011, they reached 13,450 people through 615 events.
This region has a total veteran population of 191,000.
“The rule of thumb is that 10 percent of the population are veterans,” Thur said.
More information about the Wounded Warriors can be obtained from its website at http://www.vwwpnorth.org. The northern district office is located at 102 Heritage Way, Suite 302, Leesburg. The phone number there is 571-258-3900.