Module: Vocational Rehabilitation Considerations for Military Veterans




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In 1944, the Canadian government issued a booklet titled “Back to Civil Life”, developed for military personnel who were being released from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), with “…the objective of Canada’s plan for the rehabilitation of her armed forces is that every man or woman discharged from the forces shall be in a position to earn a living”. (Dallaire & Wells, 2014, p. 35)

Nearly eighty years later, the desire to support those who are transitioning from military service to civilian employment remains.

Canada’s rehabilitation belief is that the answer to civil re-establishment is a job, and the answer to a job is fitness and training for that jobOur ambition is that these men and women who have taken up arms in defence of their country and their ideals of freedom shall not be penalized for the time they have spent in the services and our desire is that they shall be fitted in every possible way to take their place in Canada’s civil and economic life.” (Dallaire & Wells, 2014, p. 35)

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services supporting veterans requires specific approaches and professionals who possess specialized knowledge of the military framework, focusing on providing customized career and vocational services, which will increase the veterans’ career and job search skills and improve employment outcomes, while helping veterans to develop a sense of purpose and supporting their adaptation to roles in the civilian workforce.

There are multiple reasons for this specialized approach. First, vocational rehabilitation professionals must comprehensively understand the occupations and industries in which veterans have developed their skills. Further, vocational rehabilitation professionals must nurture and develop relationships within specific industries to facilitate transition opportunities.

Past services have incorrectly assumed that employment generalists who provide a one-size-fits-all career service model is sufficient. In reality, the veterans may be at different stages of their careers (e.g., years of service), will have different career factors (e.g., frequent moves, geographically restricted civilian employment opportunities), will have come from different environments (e.g., Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force), will have different levels of supervisory and leadership skills (e.g., depending upon their rank), and will have different industry backgrounds (e.g., technicians, combat arms, logistics, various civilian occupations). Additionally, some veterans will need specialized vocational supports to help define their more difficult to translate skills (e.g., combat arms, military police) or may need culturally specific services (i.e., Indigenous, LGBTQ+).

It is impossible for VR professionals to be experts in all military occupations as well as all civilian occupations, however, specialized knowledge and practices will enable VR professionals to facilitate individualized services with a higher degree of engagement in the development and achievement of career-specific goals.

As per the recent research based publication, The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans (Taylor and Blanchard, 2020), veterans transitioning to civilian employment are likely to be undertaking a host of potentially uncertain and confusing challenges including navigating a complicated administrative process to leave or have recently left the military, loss of their military culture and service member identity, unfamiliar civilian work situations, new personal life experiences (changing family dynamics, relocation, finances, healthcare plans, etc.), and exploration of veteran specific support programs and services.

Veterans often perceive themselves and are often perceived by others as having had distinct and unique employment experiences, which they may find difficult to translate or relate to civilian employment roles. However, there are several tools, approaches and supportive organizations which can be used by VR professionals to assist veterans to translate their military experience into civilian terms and increase their likelihood of successful transition.

These tools and approaches include, but are not limited to, the following four key aspects:

  1. Unique knowledge and skills of veterans
  2. Current, evidence based best practices in vocational rehabilitation supports for veterans
  3. Translation of military experience to civilian language
  4. Allies and partnerships in the community

Each of these facets will be further explored in this module to prepare VR professionals to provide best-practice based vocational services for veterans.

CEU Hours: 2


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