DNL & the VA: Working Together

Disability Network/Lakeshore (DNL) works hand-in-hand with the VA in a program called Independent Living (IL).  The IL program is part of the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program and focuses on helping veterans with service connected disabilities find meaningful, sustainable careers.

For veterans who are unable to return to work, the program helps identify accommodations, assistive technology, and community-based services that enhance independent living skills.  That’s where DNL staff come into the picture.

Susan Jones and Christine Wistrom work as Independent Living Specialists coaching veterans via peer support services.  Having lived with disabilities themselves, Susan and Chris can lend emotional support and guidance to veterans for coping with their disabilities.  They connect with veterans several times a month, both by phone or computer and in a face-to-face visit.  They assist the veterans in identifying goals for what they’d like to achieve and developing a plan to reach those goals.

DNL staff work to help troubleshoot problems the veterans may be encountering in their everyday lives, such as scheduling medical appointments or locating information about assistive technology devices that can increase independence.  Following the philosophy of DNL, they focus their efforts on “teaching to fish” rather than doing things for veterans.  They want veterans to know they are capable of handling their own problems, but also understand the DNL staff members are there to provide guidance and support when needed.

Some of the services provided in the IL program may include: 

·         Evaluation and counseling to determine needs and identify goals

·         Consultations with specialists to identify special needs such as medical therapies, or rehabilitation

·         Information and referral to resources such as health care services, special technology and equipment, community living support, and family counseling

·         Information and referral with home modification programs such as the
Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, and Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant. 

The IL program allows veterans to receive up to 24 months of support. 

Eligibility requirements include:

·         Having received a discharge that is other than dishonorable

·         Having a service-connected disability rating of at least 20% from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

·         Applying and being approved for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) VetSuccess services. 

For more information about the IL program or for other veteran-related questions, please contact Susan Jones or Chris Wistrom at 616.396.5326.