Disability Politics and Veterans with Disabilities

Report
DISABILITY POLITICS AND
VETERANS WITH DISABILITIES
Amanda Kraus, Ph. D., and Nick Rattray, Doctoral Candidate
The University of Arizona
Abstract

Using data from the Disabled Veterans
Reintegration and Education Project at the
University of Arizona, this presentation will discuss
how experiences of disability are influenced by
military service, the intersections of veteran and
disability identity, and associated developmental
processes. Implications for the larger disability
community and higher education will be explored.
University of Arizona trends
Disabled Veterans Reintegration and
Education Project

Goal to more authentically understand how disabled
veterans experience higher education

Historical shifts in perceptions of veterans and disabled
veterans
 Vietnam: 3 to 1 injury to casualty
 OEF/OIF: 16 to 1 injury to casualty (under-reported)
 $4-6 billion in mental health costs – VA top priority

Produce a model with recommendations on strategies that
contribute to the success of veterans on campus

Four year Congressionally-directed grant
Disabled Veterans Reintegration and
Education Project

Research
 Participatory-action research and mixed qualitative methodology
 35 individual, semi-structured interviews

Outreach
 Professionals’ Roundtable
 Sports and Wellness Camp
 Liaise with Student Vets Center
and campus and community

Academic initiatives
 SERV
 Online faculty resources

Direct Services
 DRC accommodations
 Healing Touch
Impact of DVRE
20092010
20102011
Initiative Total
Sports and Wellness
Camp
Individual interviews n/a
22
20
62
23
12
35
Healing Touch
n/a
47
51
98
DRC
Accommodations
SERV classes
6
15
26
47
8
24
27
59
Student Veterans
Center
Student Veterans of
America club
Annual Total
125
225
250
600
100
200
200
500
259
553
586
1401
Initiative
20082009
20
Finest of the Finest: Injured in Service
“Veterans are the finest citizens, and
disabled veterans are the finest of the
finest” or two times a citizen:
‘military citizenship,’ a new form of
identity” (Messinger, 2008).
Identity Formation: Disabled student
veterans
Hierarchy of disability and service
 Insiders ascribe value to how one becomes
injured or disabled
 VA ratings
 Determine benefits, may not match personal
identification

Identity quotes


“I’ve been avoiding the Disability Resource Center
(DRC) like it was the plague”
“Well, I got PTSD. They gave me that last year or so.
Back and knees and just basic joint stuff. Well, I got
actually—not too long ago I got diagnosed with a
mild TBI just from getting tossed around the back of a
truck, hit with a couple explosions, but that’s about it.
No puncture wounds or gun shots or anything like
that.”
Identity quotes

“Do you identify as a person with a disability?”
I’m finding it hard to identify that way. I’m just
now–you saw me in the DRC, and I’m just now
finally saying, “Yeah, I can’t learn as well as I
used to be able to,” so it’s like–I guess yes-ish,
I guess they’re getting me.”
Deceased
Combat-related
Official recognition (i.e. Purple Heart)
Service-connected
Combat Theatre
Visible injuries or disabilities
Living
Non-combat-related
Unrecognized
Non-Service-related (e.g. skiing accident)
Stateside or other non-combat location
Invisible (including physical, learning
disabilities, psychological, TBIs )
Resources for veterans and nonveterans

Resource distribution
 Rehabilitation and products that other
disabled people cannot access, do not
deserve
 Disability disqualifies from military service
 Creates divide in vets community between
visible/invisible, physical/non-physical,
tangible/intangible
Implications

Expand definition of disability and reframe ideas
around access
 Multiple

disabilities versus silos
Rehabilitation shapes disability identity
development
 VA
Goal: disability can be fixed
 Back
to service
 Better than before
 Reality:
a new normal
Implications

Coalitional politics
 Military
citizenship may continue to separate veterans
from civilian, disability community

Primary identity: disabled, student, veteran
 Athletics
as way to negotiate community membership
 Ex: Sports Camps

What are the challenges associated with disabled
vets serving as change agents for broader
disability rights?
Congratulations! You’ve been
rehabilitated!
“Congratulations! You
have completed your
Vocational Rehabilitation
and Employment program.
Therefore, I am declaring
that you are rehabilitated.”

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