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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living


NCIL Announces the Relaunch of the Veterans Subcommittee

The NCIL Veterans Subcommittee was established with the recognition that disabled veterans and/or their families need access to community based independent living services, whether they are returning to civilian life or continuing their military careers. After a recent hiatus, NCIL is excited to announce the relaunch of the NCIL Veterans Subcommittee. We are also excited to announce the appointment of Rev. Tony Lawson, the immediate past Chairman of the Maryland SILC who enlisted into the Marines in 1996.

The Veterans Subcommittee is ready to get started and is currently accepting new members. If you are interested in joining the Veterans Subcommittee, you can fill out the subcommittee interest form and select “Veterans Subcommittee”.

If you have any questions, you can contact Tony Lawson at [email protected].

Veterans and Peer Support: An Update from the NCIL Veterans Subcommittee

By David Koch, NCIL Veterans Subcommittee; Independent Living Specialist and Assistive Technology Specialist, CILWW

Peer support is one of the core services offered at Independent Living Centers across the country and is considered a helping relationship between an individual who has experience living with certain conditions assisting another person to cope and adapt to similar circumstances. Peer mentoring is at the heart of the peer support model; this is an opportunity for peer mentors to use their own personal experience of living with a disability to empower others in reaching their goals.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe peer support component of IL fits well with the Vet to Vet framework. However, Veterans’ peer support or Vet to Vet peer support has its own nuances to traditional peer support. Fellow Veterans connect better as peer mentors in the peer support process. Finding and training mentors can be a challenge with less than ten percent of the US population being Veterans (2014 VA estimate).

There are many different frameworks, but Veteran to Veteran is the most common and often the most successful because of a common bond. The Department of Veterans Affairs recognized this need for peer support. Smaller non-VA programs are just for combat Veterans while others are open to all Veterans and a few to include the Veterans’ families. As a Veteran who has made the transition to civilian life, the transition was and is not always easy. For some Veterans, especially when dealing with mental health challenges or issues such as depression or PTSD, it can be a tough road. They are often the Veterans disenfranchised by the VA, yet in real need of peer support.  [Read more…]

Supporting Independence for Veterans: An Update from the NCIL Veterans Subcommittee

By Marsha Unruh, Co-Chair of the NCIL Veterans Subcommittee and IL Program Manager at The Independence Center

Proudly serving her country in the Army for 12 years, Marilyn has spent an entire lifetime taking care of others and living life on her terms. As the years passed, her health began to decline. Soon she found herself struggling with the most basic tasks like bathing, dressing, and navigating stairs.

Marilyn heard about the Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) program from her Veterans Administration Social Worker who believed that she would be an excellent candidate for the new program. She was excited to have the opportunity to remain in her home and direct her own services. After meeting with her Veteran Coach, Ashley Billington, at The Independence Center in Colorado Springs to discuss the program and complete enrollment, Marilyn was pleased to find that she could compensate her daughter, who had recently relocated from Florida, to help take care of her needs.  [Read more…]

PVA Releases Informational Document on the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act

Paralyzed Veterans of America has released a one-page informational document on the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (S. 1318).

The document is available in PDF, Word, and html (below). Please contact PVA with any questions.

The Issue

Over 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan signed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) into law. The ACAA prohibits discrimination based on disability in air travel. Despite progress, too many travelers with disabilities still encounter significant barriers, such as damaged assistive devices, delayed assistance, and lack of seating accommodations. Access for people with disabilities in air travel must move into the 21st century. Otherwise, people with disabilities will be left behind unable to compete in today’s job market or enjoy the opportunities available to other Americans.  [Read more…]

Project Innovate

By Rudy Contreras, NCIL Veterans Subcommittee Member

Like all goals in life, it all started with a dream, an idea to think beyond the social norm and reach for the stars. Southern California Resource Services for Independent Living (SCRS) Executive Director Rudy Contreras envisioned a program unlike any other. The idea of bringing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to youth with disabilities became a journey of collaboration and unity. With the partnership from the Columbia Memorial Space Center, SCRS launched the first ever STEM program designed specifically for youth with disabilities in February 2017. SCRS selected youth from six different high schools with various disabilities; all participating in a program to empower them to become future innovators.  [Read more…]

Survey to Help Improve Financial Services for Service Members, Veterans and their Families

Source: National Disability Institute (NDI)

Are you an active duty Service Member or Veteran? If so, make your voice heard by taking less than 10 minutes of your time to complete this voluntary, anonymous and confidential survey.

The National Disability Institute (NDI) has worked closely over the past several years with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Veterans Affairs to identify opportunities to improve the overall financial wellness of Veterans, Service Members and their families. NDI is seeking survey responses in order to better understand how to help members of our military and veteran communities connect to and benefit from trusted, reliable, no-cost local community-based tax and financial services.

Best Practices: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Requests Collaboration with SSVF Grantees and Community Partners

In October 2013, the Blue Water Center for Independent Living’s (BWCIL) Project Home was awarded a grant from the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) in a seven county rural area. The program was designed to provide rapid rehousing for homeless Veteran families and homelessness prevention services to Veteran families facing eviction and utility disconnection.

In 2016, the VA required that SSVF grantees form collaborative groups in their service delivery areas to ensure enrolled Veterans received comprehensive case management services in housing, veteran service connected/non-service connected benefits, medical, mental health, substance use counseling, etc.  [Read more…]

Acronyms Breakdown from the NCIL Veterans Subcommittee

The NCIL Veterans Subcommittee has expended energy figuring out how to engage consumers who are Veterans or active duty military. During this process, we realized that we do not always understand the communication and acronyms used by the military. So, we conducted some research and came up with a few terms we think would be useful for CIL staff to have. We have also included brief descriptions of the meaning of those terms.

The Veteran Subcommittee meets monthly and is always looking for new members. If you are interested in joining, please contact Marsha Unruh at [email protected].

Help All Disabled Vets Get Access to Space Available

You can support our disabled veterans injured in the line of duty before September 23, 1996 in their efforts to obtain access to the budget neutral Space Available program. The problem is that the Space Available program allows only veterans who were injured on or after September 23, 1996 to fill empty seats on military owned or operated flights for free on a standby basis. Chairman Mac Thornberry included Section 1046 into the National Defense Authorization Act this year to fix this oversight and allow all disabled veterans the opportunity to use this program. Please fill out this form to generate a thank you letter that urges Chairman Thornberry to continue fighting to help our disabled veterans who are currently being excluded because they were injured prior to an arbitrary date.

It only takes about two minutes! The form can be found at:

Financial Capability Survey for Veterans and their Families

National Disability Institute (NDI) has worked closely the past several years, partnering with IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs, to improve the overall financial wellness of Veterans, service members and their families. NDI developed a brief electronic survey to collect information to assist NDI and its partners in developing and improving access to free financial and tax education programs and services for Veterans, their families and organizations that serve Veterans. The survey is completely voluntary, names and personal information will in no way be used or collected. If you are a Veteran, please take less than 10 minutes of your time to complete this very important survey to help us improve services for Veterans. If you know a Veteran(s) encourage them to take the survey so we may reach as many Veterans and their families as possible. Let’s all show our appreciation for our Veterans, service members and their families by ensuring the voice of our Veteran community is heard by taking the Financial Capability Survey for Veterans and their families.

IRS employees who are Veterans are welcome to take the survey since the platform hosting the survey is not blocked by the IRS.