Monday, May 28, 2012

The Wounded Veteran and College Accommodations

Many of our wounded military heroes are returning home and taking classes at college but may be reluctant to seek class accommodations for medical issues sustained during military service.  Toughing out the pain is a normal desire, and we all do it.  However, physical and emotional pain impacts the ability to perform in class or at the top of one's game on tests.

Colleges can accommodate all manner of disability issues, including Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Military personnel who are returning to college and using their GI benefits will begin the registration process with the VA representative on campus.  Some VA reps will refer the veteran to disability services when necessary, but some may not think of it.  Every college campus has a disability representative and asking the VA rep to refer you to the disability office will help.  You can also look up disability services on the website for contact information.

If you are concerned about revealing your health issues, be assured that the professionals in the disability services offices understand confidentiality and will do their best to protect your privacy.  If you have any concerns about privacy and confidentiality, ask your questions and find out the procedures.  Identifying your disability details to your professors is not required.  When the disability office professionals have your documentation, they will arrange accommodations for you to share with your professors, but the reasons for the accommodations should remain confidential.

Sometimes, military medical documentation for the disability services office can be tricky.  The best advice I can give is to speak to the disability services professional and discuss your options.  You may already have forms in your paperwork that you can use, or you may need  to get additional documentation.  Sometimes disability services offices will take forms on a temporary basis while you get more specific information for them.

Discuss your accommodation needs with the disability office.  If you need extended time for tests due to pain or challenges concentrating, that should be an easy fix.  Most professors have an attendance policy.  Additional absences or leaving class may impact your grade if you do not make arrangements through the disability office for disability-related absences or the ability to leave class if needed.  If you need disability-related absences for medical conditions or PTSD flair-ups, then you may also qualify for that accommodation as well, depending upon your diagnosis and documentation.

If your disability issues affect your ability to finish the classes for the semester, your disability office may also be able to help you with that accommodation.  Work with both the VA rep and disability rep though if you are having trouble completing the semester so that you understand your options and don't get surprised by the results.

Be assured, if you are a wounded veteran returning to college, professionals are in place to help you succeed, but policies and procedures can be complicated.  Always follow up with those who know the process well.

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