Birmingham, Alabama VA Health Care System
Veterans graduate from BVAMC CWT and VSAW programs
The Birmingham VA Medical Center held Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) and Veterans School at Work (VSAW) program’s graduations recently.
The ceremony provided an opportunity for many of the graduates to share their experiences in the programs and future plans with fellow graduates, staff and Birmingham VA Health Care System Director Stacy Vasquez.
Darryl Allen, who served in the Marines (1998-2003) and the Air Force Reserves (2006-2014), talked about his participation in the CWT Program and how it changed his life for the better.
“I was really going through a rough spot in my life – family situations, finances were all messed up, made some bad decisions – so I called the VA Crisis Hotline. I talked to a representative there and she listened to me. She put me in contact with the Birmingham VA and two days later I talked to Mr. Willie Fields.”
Fields serves as the Homeless Veterans Coordinator.
Allen enrolled in the CWT Program and currently works in the Prosthetic Department at the Birmingham VA Clinic.
“I was in a rebuilding phase in my life and it was very rough. There were few people around me. Overall, me persevering the storm, it worked out for me.”
Veteran John E. Duncan is this year’s only VSAW graduate and is currently in the CWT Program.
“Monica Williams (VSAW Facilitator) worked with me. She showed me a lot I could not do with a computer.”
Williams assisted Duncan with resume writing and other skills.
Following a divorce, Duncan said he had to find a place to go.
“I was depressed, angry, mad. Forty-three years of marriage and had everything. I didn’t know about the homeless Veterans’ programs and a nurse told me about it. Mr. Walter Robinson sat down and talk to me and said, ‘whatever happened back there let it go’ and I did. Now I am in college studying health,” said the 66-year-old Marine.
Duncan is proud to have gone from homeless to owning a car and a new relationship. He credits the VA for his success.
“As long as you are showing that you are trying, the is going to assist you.”
The CWT program is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinical vocational rehabilitation program. CWT programs strive to maintain highly responsive long-term quality relationships with business, government agencies, and industry promoting employment opportunities for Veterans with physical and mental health challenges.
Walter Robinson proudly serves as the Birmingham VA CWT Case Manager and knows what it is like to be in the program as well.
“I was homeless, I had an addiction and I have been clean for 16 years,” admitted the Army Veteran.
While participating in the program, Robinson went to college and obtained both bachelors and masters degrees.
Another success story of the CWT Program is David Woodruff.
The Air Force Veteran was unemployed and homeless and in need of assistance.
“I came through the program via United Way. I went into the CWT Program, passed the drug test to get started in July of 2019. I worked hard on the points that Walter taught us about.”
Woodruff suggests Veterans needing assistance get involved with Mr. Fields, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Williams to find out what resources are available.
“Your primary care doctor can point you in the direction of these programs,” said Woodruff.