Compensated Work Therapy/Work Program - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Compensated Work Therapy/Work Program

Therapeutic and Supported Employment Services are recovery oriented vocational programs consisting of the Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) programs (Supported Employment, Homeless Veterans Supported Employment, Transitional Work, and Workshops), Incentive Therapy program (ITP) and Vocational Assistance.

1. What are the programs within TSES?

a. Compensated Work Therapy/Supported Employment (SE) is a vocational program that helps Veterans with serious mental illness obtain and maintain competitive employment in the community. Veterans are paid directly by his or her employer and receive minimum wage and above, while receiving unlimited follow-along support from a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or Psychologist.

b. Compensated Work Therapy/Transitional Work (TW) is a vocational program that helps Veterans gain work experience at placement sites at departments in the VA Medical Center or companies in the community. Veterans will receive the required skills while in the TW compensated therapy program needed to be able to return to competitive employment in the community.

c. Compensated Work Therapy/Workshop (WS) consist of the Printing, Signage, and Assembly Workshop programs that subcontract piece work from the business community and VA Medical Center to be done by Veterans in workshops on the grounds in Building 7 under the clinical supervision of a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.

d. Compensated Work Therapy/Homeless Veterans Supported Employment program (HVSEP) is a vocational program that helps Veterans who are homeless obtain and maintain competitive employment in the community. Veterans are typically discharged from the program three months after obtaining competitive employment, unless there is a need for additional vocational services.

e. Incentive Therapy Program (ITP) is a prevocational program for Veterans to perform work at the VA Medical Center, while earning no more than half of minimum wage and gaining the skills and experience needed to transition into a vocational program or competitive employment.

f. Incentive Therapy Program/Environment Management Training (EMT) program is a 12-week program for eligible Veterans which consist of both on the job and classroom custodial training to learn how to become a housekeeper. Veterans successfully completing this program receive a certificate and are placed in a CWT/TW housekeeping position at the VA Medical Center or in the community.

g. Vocational Assistance consist of individual or group services at building 7 for Veterans to realize skills, resources, attitudes and  expectations needed to prepare for searching for employment, succeeding in the employment interview process, and succeeding in competitive employment in the community.

2. How does somebody sign up for this program?

a. These programs are open to Veterans only.  The Veteran will need to have a consult sent to one of the programs by his or her primary care provider, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

3. Is this just for Veterans? What about family members?

a. It is only for Veterans who have mental health issues or physical problems with mental health issues.

4. Is it open to Veterans from all service eras?

a. Yes, it is open to Veterans from all service eras.

5. What are the requirements?

a. This is targeted at Veterans who want to obtain competitive employment, have mental health issues and/or physical problems with mental health issues.

6. I’m an unemployed Veteran, what do I have to do to get into this program?

a. An unemployed Veteran needs to speak with his or her primary care provider, psychiatrist, or psychologist about obtaining a consult to get into the program. Once a consult has been submitted, the Veteran will be invited to attend a screening with a Vocational rehabilitation Counselor or Psychologist. At the end of the screening, which can last 60 to 90 minutes, the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or Psychologist will inform the Veteran if he or she will be admitted to the program, unless the staff needs to discuss the screening with the treatment team.

After the staff meets with the team, the Veteran will be informed. If the Veteran is not admitted to the program, he or she would be informed of the reason and provided with appropriate referrals to other programs.

7. Is there a waiting list for the CWT program?

a. Yes, for placements at work sites in the CWT/TW program and ITP.

8. How many Veterans are currently in the CWT program?

a. 353 Veterans were served in the CWT programs and 182 Veterans served in the Incentive Therapy Program in fiscal 2012.

9. Are these just jobs nobody wants? 

a. No, Veterans want the jobs the staff has to offer them. These positions are an opportunity to get treatment and real-world experience to re-enter the workforce and learn valuable employment skills.

10. What type of salary do I get with CWT?

a. Minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and above. There is no limit to how much a Veteran can earn.

11. How long can I stay in CWT?

a. As long as you have a clinical need or vocational goals and objectives that you are working on attaining.

12. Can I pick where I will work in this program?

a. During your screening, you are encouraged to inform the counselor of the type of work you want and your past work experiences including your military specialty. The staff will work hard to place you at a job of your preference or one that is compatible with your past work history.

13. How will this help me get a different or better job?

a. You will gain the skills necessary to maintain a job, with a stable work history and references from a supervisor to assist you in securing a better job or competitive employment.

14. How long has the VA had this program?

a. Some of these programs have been operating continuously for 30 years, and we’ve brought additional programs online in that time, and they have helped thousands of Veterans. We want to help you, too. If you believe you qualify, we are ready to help you get started.

15. Is the purpose of CWT to give people a job, or to help them out if they have substance abuse issues?

a.  The purpose of the program is to assist Veterans in obtaining and maintaining meaningful competitive employment. Since substance abuse treatment is part of the many services we offer, this can also be a part of this program.

16. Do people in this program have to follow any rules?

a.  Yes, there are rules provided at each placement or work site. There are also safety protocols to follow when placed at a job site. 

17. What if someone in this program breaks one of the rules, such as using alcohol or drugs?

a. Veterans who violate rules of the program meet with their case managers to discuss the violations.

18. How many hours a week does someone work in CWT?

a. The majority of the CWT/TW placements are full time (40 hours a week). However, CWT/SE and CWT/HVSEP staff will assist Veterans with obtaining competitive employment opportunities of their choice, many of which are part-time jobs. The Incentive Therapy placements are both full time and part time, with no overtime.

19. Is housing also provided for those in CWT?

a. There is a CWT/Transitional Residence, a nine-bed residence. Veterans must be in the CWT program in order to be admitted to the CWT/TR. The Veterans in the CWT/TR program live in a homelike setting, with a private bedroom, and pay program fees from their CWT wages. They also buy their own food and cook their meals, coupled with cleaning their living spaces. They participate in therapeutic activities to practice healthy and successful community life and social skills to assist them when they transition to independent living in the community.  Other Veterans reside in the Domiciliary on the grounds of the VA Medical Center. However, many Veterans have their own housing in the community.

20. What if I need more money than what this provides?

a. Veterans can discuss their needs with their case managers who are Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors or Psychologists in order that referrals can be made to resources at the VA Medical Center or in the community.

21. What if I am a business that is interested in bringing in CWT employees. How do I sign up?

a. We are always interested in broadening our partnerships! Please call the program manager at 414-384-2000, ext. 41246.

22. As a business, how much do I have to pay?

a. TSES have developed contractual partnerships with several companies in Milwaukee and the surrounding counties. When completing a contract, competitive wages for the Veterans will be discussed and established.

23. Are there any risks involved with hiring CWT employees?

a. There are more benefits than risks. For example, employers have a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor working with both the Veterans and employer providing follow-along supports to help the Veteran be successful at the placement site. Some Veterans also receive job coaching, when appropriate. The Veterans attends support groups that allow them to address and resolve problems he or she might be experiencing so that individual can focus on displaying good work ethics at the job site before discharging to competitive employment. 

24. How many businesses and organizations are currently using CWT employees?

a. There are ten companies in the community who currently have Veteran from the CWT/TW program placed in jobs.

25. What types of jobs are available?

a. Grounds keeping, housekeeping, warehouse workers, maintenance workers, painters, mailroom workers, laundry workers, and sterile pocessing services workers.

26. This just sounds like a government, feel-good service that doesn’t do any good. How do I know you guys are spending my tax dollars wisely?

a. Because of the number of Veterans who obtain competitive employment in the community, while numerous Veterans are able to live independently in the community due to the wages they earn in the program. In fiscal 2012, the CWT/TW and CWT/Workshop programs paid Veterans $1.4 million. 

27. Why can’t these people just get a job on their own?

a. Some Veterans may have barriers to employment that they are struggling with such as legal histories, sporadic work history, substance abuse problems, or mental health issues. These programs teach skills and help them establish a stable work history so they can return to the work force.

28. What is considered a successful completion of the program?

a. Veterans obtaining competitive employment in the community.  However, some Veterans have elected to return to school for additional training and/or education, which is also considered a successful completion.

29. How many people have successfully completed the program?

a. We are very happy to report that thousands have successfully completed this program and found meaningful employment since the program started.

30. Can you give me some examples of these success stories?

a. Listen to the video of the two Veterans on the website. One is currently competitively employed at the VA Medical Center and one is currently in the CWT/TW program, while residing in transitional residency.

31. Where can I get more information on CWT?

a. Please call 414-382-2000, ext. 47178 or 41247, we are ready to take your call!