On December 14, the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, held an oversight hearing to discuss the successes of VA’s Compensated Work Therapy Program (CWT). Compensated Work Therapy is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vocational rehabilitation program that strives to match and support work ready veterans in competitive jobs, and to consult with business and industry regarding their specific employment needs. CWT programs work to maintain highly responsive long term relationships with business and industry promoting employment opportunities for veterans with physical and mental disabilities. Typically CWT programs are located within VA medical centers in most large metropolitan areas and many smaller communities.
Subcommittee Chairman Bill Johnson (R-OH) stressed the importance of the Compensated Work Therapy for veterans in today’s economic climate. “In a time of high unemployment, especially among veterans, we all must make every effort to match qualified workers with suitable jobs. The CWT program does just that, matching disabled veterans with employers,” Johnson said.
PVA submitted questions to the Subcommittee in advance for Committee Members to direct to the VA panel. PVA’s primary concern was how the VA’s program would work in conjunction with PVA’s vocational rehabilitation. PVA’s vocational rehabilitation program also functions from within select VA hospitals, assisting catastrophically disabled veterans to prepare to reenter the workforce and to make a connection with local employers. The success of PVA’s program can be attributed to a proper match for employment for the veteran and intense follow-up with the employer for years after placement.
VA indicated in its testimony that their program was focused on the population of veterans being treated in the VA health care system for cognitive or other mental illness problems. The VA CWT program requires a VA doctor’s referral. It currently services over 41,000 veterans at 187 locations. Some particular programs, such as the one in Bedford, Massachusetts that was discussed during the hearing, have been successful working in the community. They have established working relationships with over 15 businesses in that community that are eager to employ veterans enrolled in the CWT program.
Chairman Johnson acknowledged that the CWT program is well-intended. However, he emphasized that having “some successful locations” is not good enough. All of their CWT locations should be as aggressive and successful with placing veterans who have been excluded from the workplace. Chairman Johnson said that the Subcommittee will continue having hearings to evaluate this important program and other employment programs offered by the VA.