YOU CAN DO IT: THE ROLE OF A PEER SUPPORT SPECIALIST

In the VA’s Independent Living Program, a Peer Support Specialist is assigned to each veteran to act as a coach in setting and achieving specific goals that the vet chooses. That’s where Disability Network/Lakeshore (DNL) comes into the picture. There is something about knowing the person working with you has overcome some of life’s challenges too that makes it a good fit.

DNL assigns a Peer Support Specialist to each veteran. During the initial visit, we ask the veteran what the issues are that concern him or her. We look at what the veteran would like to achieve from meeting with us, and then we look at how we can best reach those goals. It’s a process we take seriously, but we want to keep things fun too. Sometimes that’s a tough balance to find.

In our work with veterans, we make a visit at least once a month. During the visit, we look at what’s been happening since the last time we were there, and if any progress has been made on moving closer to the veteran’s goals. Sometimes we can help clarify the barriers and suggest ways to get around them. Other times we act as cheerleaders and share in the pride of overcoming obstacles. In all cases, we walk with the veteran, not in front of, or behind. It is not our journey, but it is a path we’ve been down and have managed to find our way through.

Sometimes having someone walk with them on the journey is all it takes to help a veteran find the way through too. Those are the sweetest times!

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