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Health Services Research & Development

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2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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2012 National Meeting

3108 — Life After War: The Development of a Program to Address Post-Deployment Issues in Post-Secondary Education

Woods TS, and Hall MJ, Iowa City VAHCS & University of Iowa;

The number of OEF/OIF/OND Veterans who are pursuing post-secondary education is increasing, due in part, to changes in the Post 9/11 GI bill. However, there is little empirical research on how these students are fairing in their scholastic endeavors. Our clinical experience has been notable for many of these Veterans experiencing significant problems returning to and functioning in school. The purpose of this project was to develop a college-level course to help with the transition back into school, provide education on common post-deployment problems to help mitigate the consequences of such problems (e.g. PTSD, TBI, etc.), improve academic self-efficacy, and increase scholastic success and degree completion.

While there are currently several programs that attempt to ease the transition into post-secondary education, none appear comprehensive. The current project draws upon the most salient aspects of these existing programs, while also incorporating novel approaches for addressing the impact of common post-deployment issues in the scholastic setting. Additional input for the development of this course was received from rehabilitation and vocational psychologists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, local student Veterans organization, and neuropsychologists with experience working with Veteran populations.

The result of this project was a semester long Veterans-only college course. This course has been taught for 4 semesters with plans to offer the program at other universities and community colleges.

The development and successful implementation of this program will be discussed, as well as the course outline, rationale for material covered, and feedback on course objectives. Ongoing quantitative and qualitative studies are being conducted to determine the efficacy of this program in meeting key goals. Qualitative data has been notable for reported increased academic skills and self-efficacy, decreased stigma surrounding post-deployment issues, and increased sense of community on the college campus.

The results of this project highlight the need for novel approaches to help combat Veterans successfully transition into postsecondary education in light of high occurrence rates of affective and physical sequela associated with deployments. Broader implications for more comprehensive programs to assist veterans will be addressed.

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