Think Tank: Serving Veterans with Disabilities Proceedings

Think Tank: Serving Veterans with Disabilities
Seattle, Washington
March 26, 2008

[Group shot of participants gathered around a conference table in discussion.]

The Think Tank: Serving Veterans with Disabilities was hosted by the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle as part of its Northwest Alliance for Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM). The goal of AccessSTEM is to increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM careers. AccessSTEM is funded by the National Science Foundation (Cooperative Agreement No. HRD0227995 in the Research on Disabilities Education Program within the Division of Human Resources Development).

Higher education institutions are beginning to experience a rapidly growing number of veterans on their campuses. Employers are also receiving more job applications from veterans. Many of these veterans have disabilities.

The purpose of the Think Tank was to identify ways existing programs can collaborate to improve veterans' access to post-deployment training, education, and careers.


Think Tank: Serving Veterans with Disabilities

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

[Picture of Parrington Hall on the UW campus.]

The Think Tank: Serving Veterans with Disabilities was conducted in Parrington Hall at the University of Washington in Seattle.


Marjorie James, President, Hire America's Heroes
Judae Bost'n, Ed. D., Training & Development, Bates Technical College
Martha Cerna, South Sound Women's Business Center (SSWBC)
Linda Jadwin, SSWBC and Veterans Outreach for Training and Education
Greg Lindvig, WorkSource Washington
Tina Morrison, Business Services and Veteran's Affairs, University of Washington
Scott Swaim - Deputy Director, WA State Department of Veterans Affairs Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder Program
Deb Bretey, Mental Health and Trauma Counselor, Tacoma Vet Center
Al Souma, M.A., Disability Services, Seattle Central Community College
Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D., Director, DO-IT
Michael Richardson, Program Manager, DO-IT
Lisa Stewart, Program Coordinator, DO-IT
Scott Bellman, M.A., Program Coordinator, DO-IT

Planning Team

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D., Director, DO-IT
Al Souma, M.A., Disability Services, Seattle Central Community College
Michael Richardson, Program Manager, DO-IT
Lisa Stewart, Program Coordinator, DO-IT
Scott Bellman, M.A., Program Coordinator, DO-IT


What are the unique needs of veterans with disabilities with respect to college and career success?

To address the unique needs of veterans with disabilities regarding college and career success, Think Tank participants suggested that we do the following:

What interventions might contribute to their success?

The following interventions were identified during the meeting:

Several members of the Think Tank emphasized the importance of having veterans, with or without disabilities, available to mentor veterans with disabilities. They felt that having mentors who are veterans with disabilities is ideal.

Bringing activities to veterans was also perceived as a promising practice. Providing interventions in hospitals, on military bases, and in local communities was identified as a high priority.

What might we build into our grant proposals to support veterans in their pursuit of college and careers? How might we work together?

Mentoring Opportunities: It was suggested that opportunities for mentoring would be of high value to veterans, their family members, and professionals who provide services. Various models were discussed such as the DO-IT e-mentoring programs and the AcademyWomen E-Mentor Leadership program ( The anonymous nature of electronic mentoring may be of particular value for veterans who are in need of support but are isolated or hesitant to engage with professionals face-to-face. The group identified logical avenues to market e-mentoring opportunities to veterans such as Stars and Stripes, military base newspapers, newsletters at treatment facilities such as Madigan Army Medical Center, the Veteran's Business Owners registry, reaching out through spouses and families, and tapping into communities of ethnic groups.

Regional Capacity Building Institutes (CBIs): Think Tank members agreed that a one or 2-day CBI designed to bring together key stakeholders would be of high value. Invitees would come from a large geographic area and from many different areas of service provision. The CBI could develop working drafts of training materials, improve collaborations among stakeholder groups, build the Community of Practice, and identify ways to recruit veterans and families into e-mentoring and other services.

Faculty Training: Offering faculty training sessions to Seattle Central Community College that include members of the Think Tank was discussed. The goal would be to provide content to faculty in several modalities (presentation, slides, written materials, etc), and then package the content into publications and web resources for distribution to a large number of other colleges in our region and nationwide. The primary objectives of this training would be to provide faculty with an overview of the unique cultural and identity issues often expressed by veterans as well as teaching and communication strategies appropriate for this population.

Community of Practice (CoP): Think Tank members discussed the development of a "Serving Veterans CoP" made up of veterans with disabilities, service providers, and volunteer mentors. Initial membership would be the Think Tank participants, with ongoing recruitment of others. The CoP will maintain contact primarily through an email distribution list. The CoP members will share common concerns in their practices and interact regularly to improve service to veterans with disabilities and their families. They will identify problems, goals, and resources; assess change; form collaborations; and monitor and adjust plans and activities. Some initial ideas that the CoP can address were identified: placing veteran representatives on college campuses, creating linkages between community colleges and 4-year colleges, using corporate affinity groups as a model for developing projects, providing faculty training, creating an e-mentoring community, exploring creative solutions for home-bound veterans, finding avenues for civilian certification to quantify military competencies, and identifying models for career development (e.g., Northrop Grumman's Return to Work Program).

Campus Connections and Student Groups: Think Tank members suggested that campus Disability Services Offices would benefit from activities that connect them with programs and resources designed to improve services to veterans with disabilities (e.g. campus office of veterans affairs). Such connections would help Disability Services staff improve outcomes for veterans with disabilities on their campus. The development of student groups on campuses made up of veterans was also identified as a valuable intervention.

Resource Development: The need for publications, web pages, and presentation materials for all stakeholder groups was identified as a priority by Think Tank members. Existing materials can be linked from a website. New materials can begin to be identified and developed through the CoP and at CBIs.

Who are the key stakeholder groups and necessary partners?

Key stakeholder groups include veterans with and without disabilities, their families, college campuses, vocational training programs, government programs, employers, and service agencies. It was determined that in the Pacific Northwest, there are many organizations that can be invited to collaborate on activities proposed by the Think Tank. A partial list generated during the discussion includes:

Bates Technical College
Fort Lewis Army Career and Alumni Program
Hire America's Heroes
NW Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America
Pierce County Heroes at Home
Seattle Central Community College
South Sound Women's Business Center
Tacoma Vet Center
University of Washington DO-IT Center
University of Washington Office of Business Services and Veterans' Affairs
Veterans Outreach for Training and Education
WA Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD Program
WorkSource Washington

How should members of the Think Tank proceed in working with stakeholder groups?

The first step is the development and distribution of the proceedings from this meeting. The next step will be to implement the CoP as a forum to discuss and plan specific activities mentioned above (e.g., launching e-mentoring, planning a CBI, offering a faculty training session on a college campus, developing resource materials).

Further Communication and Discussion

For more information about encouraging people with disabilities in STEM fields, consult http://www.washington.edi/doit/Stem/. To communicate with DO-IT staff, send an email to

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane
Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.


The Think Tank: Serving Veterans with Disabilities was funded by DO-IT and the National Science Foundation through AccessSTEM under cooperative agreement No. HRD0227995. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.