Since World War II, VA has been using recreation as a form of rehabilitation for disabled Veterans at VA healthcare facilities. Each year, the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events operates six major recreation events and provides grants totaling more than $10 million to community partners and athletes who participate in adaptive sports programs for disabled Veterans.
VA’s rehabilitative sports programs have served as the model for similar programs popping up in countries around the globe. In 2013, after visiting the Warrior Games, a program funded in part by VA, Great Britain’s Prince Harry returned to the U.K. and created the Invictus Games, a sporting tournament for injured servicemen and women. The event is quickly becoming an international phenomenon, and will be hosted by ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando in 2016.
Likewise, the Korean Disabled Veterans Organization (KDVO) has created several programs for disabled Korean Veterans modeled after VA’s programs, going so far as to attend several VA events to observe best practices.
“I am deeply impressed by VA’s physical medicine and adaptive sports programs,” said KDVO’s Park Sang Keun who was injured in a military operation in Korean Peninsula in 1978. This June, Keun led a team of KDVO’s executive leadership to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Dallas, Texas, an event co-presented by VA and Paralyzed Veterans of America which has served as the model for Korea’s own programs.
Since their first visit to the NVWG in 2009, the KDVO has developed and promoted programs for Korean disabled Veterans including their biannual National Disabled Veterans Games. Additionally, KDVO is working in all 5 Korean Veteran hospitals to create spinal cord injury and disease centers modeled after VA’s programs.
In 2014, Kim Deok Nam, KDVO president, attended VA’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he quickly realized the therapeutic potential of art therapy for disabled Veterans. This year, KDVO adopted the program mode as official curriculum at its own Welfare and Cultural Academies, located in 16 major cities across Korea. The program’s first exhibition and stage show was held this month at the Korea Disabled Veterans Sports Center.
At a luncheon with VA leadership in Dallas, KDVO leadership expressed their deepest appreciation to VA for its leadership and experience in providing physical medicine and rehabilitation programs for disabled Veterans.
“I believe that the KDVO delegation’s annual visit at the VA’s adaptive sports events will continue to help develop and improve Korean disabled Veterans physical medicine and rehabilitation programs,” said Keun, “but also promote and solidify the bilateral alliance between the two countries.”