Servicemembers and Veterans with Disabilities: Addressing Unique Needs through Professional Rehabilitation Counseling

Article excerpt

REHABILITATION COUNSELING BACKGROUND

Rehabilitation counseling is an invaluable profession whose counselors are uniquely qualified to work with veterans and servicemembers because they understand the medical and psychosocial aspects of various disabilities and disabling conditions and have a basic appreciation for assistive technology. Rehabilitation counseling, according to the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC), is--

   a systematic process which assists persons with physical, mental,
   developmental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities to achieve
   their personal, career, and independent living goals in the most
   integrated setting possible through the application of the
   counseling process. The counseling process involves communication,
   goal setting, and beneficial growth or change through
   self-advocacy, psychological, vocational, social, and behavioral
   interventions [1].

Further, CRCC states that "rehabilitation counselors are the only professional counselors educated and trained specifically to serve individuals with disabilities" [1]. As of May 2012, the CRCC has certified more than 35,000 counselors.

Rehabilitation counselors are trained to use case-management processes to facilitate a skilled service delivery process. Additionally, all rehabilitation counselors work to assess an individual's abilities and strengths to facilitate a return to work and achieve his or her personal and independent living goals.

REHABILITATION COUNSELING EDUCATION

Rehabilitation counselors have a national credential, the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and, in many states, are licensed as professional counselors. The Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) is the national credentialing body for Master's programs in rehabilitation counseling. The CORE accreditation process promotes effective delivery of rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities; continuing review and improvement of Master's-level rehabilitation counseling education programs; program self-improvement based on outcome-oriented data obtained from feedback from graduates, students, and employers; meeting the personnel needs of both public and private rehabilitation agencies; and providing graduates who have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to provide rehabilitation counseling services to individuals with physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities [2]. Currently, 96 CORE-accredited rehabilitation counseling programs exist in the United States.

HISTORY OF REHABILITATION COUNSELING: MILITARY ORIGINS

Rehabilitation counselors have a rich history of working with servicemembers and veterans with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation originated in early U.S. legislation to provide rehabilitation services to veterans with disabilities and assist them in achieving their independent living and vocational goals. In 1918, Congress passed the Soldier's Rehabilitation Act of 1918 that later established the Federal Board of Vocational Rehabilitation. The purpose of the Soldier's Rehabilitation Act was to develop vocational education programs for veterans with disabilities during World War I [3]. This act was monumental to the field of rehabilitation counseling because it marked the "official" beginning of the field. The need for rehabilitation counselors was further strengthened with the passing of the 1943 Disabled Veterans Act and the 1944 Servicemen's Readjustment Act, which arose as a result of World War II [3]. The Disabled Veterans Act sanctioned vocational support, while the Servicemen's Readjustment Act provided vocational training and education for servicemembers whose careers were shortened by serving in the military. In addition, World War II created a shortage of traditional workers. As a result, servicemembers with disabilities were hired to fill these vacancies, which allowed them to demonstrate their ability to participate competitively in the workforce. …