Operation TBI Freedom
In Colorado alone, more than 7,200 veterans will return from conflict with traumatic brain injuries. For those with this serious, yet often invisible injury the transition to civilian life can be especially difficult. When these conditions are untreated a host of problems can occur, including substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors, suicide, physical health problems, lower workplace productivity and employment rates, marital and parenting difficulties, and homelessness.
While a variety of public and nonprofit services are available to veterans with TBI, navigating the complex web of programs and systems is daunting. Operation TBI Freedom (OTF) helps veterans and their families optimize benefits to which they are entitled and access needed services efficiently and without duplication of effort. OTF also provides direct services not available elsewhere to address crisis situations and position veterans for long-term success.
To meet service needs and gaps to veterans with TBI, Operation TBI Freedom serves veterans through an individualized, relationship-oriented case management process. Eligible veterans are assigned a Military Support Specialist (MSS). These specialists have extensive prior military service and hold credentials as Certified Brain Injury Specialists. The MSSs initial focus is twofold: working with each veteran to resolve any immediate crises as well as to develop a personalized plan – called the “life plan” -- to advance his or her reintegration into civilian life and increased self-sufficiency over the longer term. Recognizing that family issues and dynamics can be a source of both healing and conflict, the OTF approach considers the needs of the entire family in developing these plans and engages family members throughout the process.
These individualized reintegration plans aim to ensure that veterans:
- Receive adequate and timely treatment of physical and mental health issues;
- Are equipped for long-term financial stability through optimization of earned benefits, a better understanding of financial management and resources to secure civilian employment; and
- Develop healthy relationships with family members, friends and community members.
Specific services provided or coordinated by OTF include food, housing and other emergency assistance; crisis management; mental health referrals; medical care; benefits assistance; employment readiness, training, placement and support; assistive technology; mentoring; family and recreational events; classes on a variety of psychosocial topics (parenting, anger management, financial management) and separate support groups for veterans and family members. OTF also helps veterans with legal issues navigate their interactions with and meet applicable orders of the Veterans Treatment Court.
The duration and intensity of services provided by OTF is tailored to meet the needs of individual veterans. However, most clients are in contact with their MSS weekly and receive services for about 24 months. OTF’s average cost for serving a veteran with TBI for a two-year period is $5,000.
After veterans formally complete the program, they remain part of the OTF family. OTF’s alumni program provides ongoing access to educational opportunities, employment/volunteer assistance and recreational/therapeutic activities. As well, alumni can reach back to our program at any given time, and be reconsidered for additional support in the active program if needs warrant.