Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VAMC
Philadelphia VAMC's Compensated Work Therapy
The Transitional Work Experience program provides rehabilitation for Veterans through work experience. It began with 35 slots, but due to the large number of Veterans who signed up for the program, 35 more slots were added. The length of stay in the program is four months, during which time the Veteran will have an opportunity to practice and acquire workplace skills which are needed in competitive employment. The work site functions like a “real” job, is supervised by work site staff, allows for the Veteran to identify and address work-related challenges, and places the same job expectations and demands that most employees are faced with.
“I am a firm believer that the program works, and I will continue to hire Veterans and work with the Veterans in the program,” said Medical Supply Technician Leroy Willis. He explained that he feels strongly that the TWE program is a great way to help Veterans, who have been out of the work force, acclimated and back on the right path. Willis believes in the slogan, “hire our vets,” and, it should start in government agencies.
The Vocational Rehabilitation specialist conducts monthly job clubs that provide information to Veterans on communication, dressing for success, interviewing, and resume writing. The program is currently in the process of purchasing 40 laptops for Veterans to receive assistance in locating and applying for jobs on the internet and working on their resumes. Within the last year alone, 15 CWT workers have been hired at Philadelphia VA Medical Center.
CWT worker Susan Murtha, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, works in the Patient Transfer Office and has been in the program for two months. “I like the program, and I wish it were longer than four months,” she said. She explained that building relationships with the patients, seeing them several times a week, gives her something to look forward to. Murtha agrees that it is a great program for the patients as well as the CWTs. She specifically requested to work in an area with patients so she could help fellow Veterans.
For a Veteran to be accepted into the program, there are many factors involved. Veterans should inform their provider of their interest in the program and ask for a referral into the program. Veterans must receive mental health or substance abuse services, and has to be referred from one of three clinics at PVAMC; Addiction Recovery Unit, Opioid Treatment Program, or Mental Health Clinic. Veterans need to be motivated and ready to work. In order to participate in the TWE program, each Veteran must have exhibited 60 days of clean urine drug screens and receive weekly care from one of the above clinics. They also must obtain medical clearance from their Primary Care Provider.
Some of the work sites where the Veteran can be assigned are, Environmental Management Services (EMS), Community Living Center (CLC), Nutrition and Food Services, Sterile Processing Department, (SPD), SPS, Patient Transportation, Acquisition and Material Management, Chaplain Services, Warehouse, and Facility Management. CWT worker Odell Williams, who served in the U.S. Navy, works in the warehouse and has been in the program for three months in the ARU Treatment program. “I like the program, I think it is great,” said Williams.
“Our department takes pride in providing an inclusive work environment that introduces the ideas of new career goals and establishment of a continuous growth model they can use at the end of the four month period,” said Lilly Santos, chief of Sterile Processing Services. Santos has been working with CWT participants for many years and she believes working with them has been very rewarding for both parties.
Supported Employment and Homeless Veterans Supported Employment also fall under the CWT umbrella. The Supported Employment Program is designed to assist Veterans who are motivated to return to competitive employment. The Homeless Veterans Supported Employment Program is a program where Vocational Rehabilitation specialists work one-on-one in the community with Veterans in obtaining employment. The purpose of the program is to assist homeless Veterans in locating and maintaining competitive employment in the community.