When I left the Army, it felt like I was leaving behind a part of myself. It’s a feeling that many Veterans experience as they transition from military to civilian life. Thankfully, VA was there to point me in the right direction and keep me on track with GI Bill benefits and health care at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center.
The transition can be tough for anyone, but even more so for those who have suffered a traumatic injury, life-changing illness or disease. Let me start by saying this: there is no single road map for recovery. Your best recovery may come from various angles and various methods. The sooner you embrace that idea, the quicker you may recover.
Another equally important point is that your recovery requires your involvement. It won’t just happen to you. And for those of you who are ready for a challenge, ready to fully engage your rehabilitation and move forward with your life, I’ve got something for you.
VA recently announced the availability of up to $8 million in grant funding to provide adaptive sports opportunities for disabled Veterans in their communities. The details of this new program were laid out in the Federal Register, July 1, 2014, and can be viewed under the “Grant Program” tab: http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/. The deadline for submitting grant proposals is Aug. 11, 2014.
So what does this mean? It means that eligible organizations in your community can apply for a grant to provide adaptive sports for you and your fellow Veterans. It means you can get involved and help develop sport and recreation programs in your community.
These grants are intended to help disabled Veterans improve their health, independence and well-being. Grants may be awarded for:
- Instruction, participation and competition in adaptive sports;
- Training and technical assistance to program administrators, coaches, recreational therapists, instructors and other appropriate individuals; and
- Coordination, Paralympic classification of athletes, athlete assessment, sport-specific training techniques, program development (including programs at the local level), sports equipment and other activities related to program operation.
Adaptive sports can help you confront challenges and redefine your capabilities, and this is critical to successful rehabilitation. The path is not always easy, nor should it be, but it’s worth the effort. Need proof? A 2009 study by Disabled Sports USA found that disabled Veterans who participate in adaptive sports have greater independence, more fulfilling relationships, greater job satisfaction and less stress than those who don’t.
Sports can be one of the fundamental pieces of the rehab process. It’s about healing our bodies and minds. It’s about setting goals, making a plan and sticking with it. That feeling of success and accomplishment from sports can carry over to starting a business, landing a new job or quitting smoking – goals keep us moving. And when we’re moving, we focus on what we can do, not what we can’t. That’s the idea behind VA’s National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events office motto—Mission ReDefined.
Speaking of redefining, we are redefining how we engage Veterans in adaptive sports. Our website has all the tools and resources you’ll need, whether you’re a Veteran, family member or part of VA staff. One important feature developed by our partners at the U.S. Paralympics is a national sport club finder. This tool allows you to type in your zip code and instantly view a list of adaptive sports programs in your community. If nothing is available in your area, let me know by email at vacoadaptiveSP@va.gov, and I’ll find resources for you.
If you are a disabled Veteran, I encourage you to check out our website, connect with local adaptive sport programs and redefine your mission.
Matt Bristol is the acting director for VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events in Washington, D.C.