Vocational Rehabilitation counselor a resource for veterans with service-connected disabilities

By Lesley AtkinsonNovember 2, 2018

Vocational Rehabilitation counselor a resource for veterans with service-connected disabilities
(181029-A-PE074-0002) -- Vivian Harper-Hampton, the Vocational Rehabilitation counselor at Kenner Army Health Clinic, answers a Soldier's question about a service-connected disability during an office visit Oct. 29, 2018 (photo by Lesley Atkinson, Ke... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Counseling for individuals with service-connected disabilities is among the benefits provided at Kenner Army Health Clinic.

Vivian Harper-Hampton, a Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employee Program advisor, is available at Kenner Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Her overarching mission is to help disabled veterans find new careers and live independently. To achieve that goal, she is armed with a wealth of employee benefit information and assistance resources that can provide vocational rehabilitation, education and other support services.

"I mainly assist transitioning service members as they go through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System process to attain VA benefits," Harper-Hampton elaborated. "My goal is to help them accomplish and maintain employment or enhance their daily living once they leave the service.

"As part of my counseling duties, I educate them on the VA-provided resources, to include retraining for future employment," she further explained. "For example, if (an individual) attained job skills during time-in-service and then lose the ability to perform in that career field as a result of their service-connected disabilities, I am that link to valuable resources that can help them reach a new skill set. My job is to facilitate their move to another line of work so they can continue to provide for their family or link them up with resources that can enhance their quality of life if they're unable to become employed."

Harper-Hampton is part of the IDES medical board team. She provides group briefings to the members at the beginning of the IDES process at which time she offers the opportunity for individuals to apply for services.

"I spend as much time with my client as it takes," Harper-Hampton proudly stated. "If more than one appointment is required, I accommodate to their specific needs. I am flexible within the timeline that is established by the VA. As a veteran myself, I believe it's an honor to serve to standard, rather than to time. It is my goal to assist the service members to determine their next steps."

If one is entitled to the program's benefits and services, the VRC will develop a personalized rehabilitation plan following one of these tracks of support:

• Re-employment -- Supporting the employer's efforts to provide accommodations that enable the veteran to continue along the same or a similar career path.

• Rapid Access to Employment -- Helping disabled veterans who are ready to enter the workforce find, apply for and secure suitable jobs. VA may provide professional job placement assistance, job accommodations and other specialized support.

• Self-employment -- Veterans who have limited access to traditional employment, but possess the skill and interest to start a business, can receive help with analyzing a proposed business plan and are eligible for training on how to market and operate a small business. Self-employment can be fulfilling and may offer the flexibility a veteran with a service-connected disability needs.

• Employment Through Long-Term Services -- For veterans and SMs who require additional skills or training to find competitive, suitable employment, VR&E will provide assistance that may include education benefits, on-the-job training, work study, apprenticeships or other job preparation programs.

• Independent Living -- Some veterans and SMs may be unable to return to work, but with assistance from VR&E, they can lead a more independent life. VA helps them with access to community-based support services, the use of assistive technologies and accommodations, and independent living skills training.

The VRC end goal is to find suitable employment or links to resources that enhance one's livelihood. Harper-Hampton is available to discuss any special services, to include tutoring.

"Helping others has always been my passion; my niche," she said. "I love helping my SMs overcome their barriers to employment and living a fulfilling life, which is the gist of the VR&E program. I have always been good at being resourceful. If I could not get it done, I have always been good at knowing who could. A service to others has been ingrained in my character since before my time in service."

In addition to the assistance provided by Harper-Hampton, veterans have access to other helpful resources including the VA.gov and ebenefits.gov websites or the assistance services at any VA Medical Center. To set up an appointment at the Kenner office, call 804-734-7547.