Occupational rehabilitation helps meet the challenges of reintegrating veterans into civilian society

By Kirsty Glen


As a Rehabilitation Counsellor within the APM group, I have worked with both serving members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and veterans for many years.

At the start of my career, I worked within the ADF rehabilitation program, assisting individuals who were still serving. Many of my clients subsequently separated from the ADF due to their injuries/ medical conditions and a large portion of my role was to assist these individuals with their transition to civilian life. I recognised that this was a very challenging process on so many levels.

Following this, I worked as a case manager for about four years with veterans. From all I’ve seen, I believe rehabilitation is a critical part of a veteran’s reintegration into society.

Working in this space, I’ve found the most important thing to remember is that each person and their experience is unique. At Konekt, we aim to deliver a holistic biopsychosocial rehabilitation plan based on the veteran’s own goals. It’s not my role to tell my clients how to live, rather I’m here to work with them (and their families where appropriate) to achieve the most fulfilling and balanced life possible, whatever that looks like for them. I also work closely with the veteran’s treatment team to ensure the identified goals are suitable in consideration of the individual’s medical conditions.

Rehabilitation is a crucial part of the veteran journey

Everybody transitioning out of the ADF has their own experience. The levels of support, engagement with treatment and access to information/services can vary so greatly, and a key part of our role as case managers is to assist the individual in having the right team and support in place. There is a complex maze of service organizations and treatment providers out there, and our expertise helps navigate that process.

Many of our clients have been living and breathing the ADF existence and its routines for a long time and often it is the only career goal they’ve known. It’s very different to wake up one day, put on whatever shirt you want and make all decisions for yourself.

The case management and support we provide in this space is therefore invaluable.  We can help with goal setting, engaging with best practice treatment, routine, community, leisure activities and where suitable, meaningful career goals – all really important steps to empower an individual veteran to have the best life they possibly can.

Reintegrating into civilian life can be challenging for veterans

Every rehabilitation program is unique as every client’s story and needs are different. Our role is to assist each individual with creating goals that have meaning for them, whether they are about returning to work or psychosocial engagement.

For veterans looking to transfer to a civilian career post ADF, I am skilled in providing assistance in identifying suitable career paths considering their experience, transferable skills, interests and medical conditions.

Finding a civilian role that will be as fulfilling as the ADF can be a real challenge at times. Whilst veterans have such a wide list of transferrable skills, these are not always easy to identify – and it can be hard to match the level of dedication and sacrifice people give in the ADF, with a civilian job. People join the ADF to engage in a really rewarding and meaningful career and many think they’ll work there forever. This can be a real hurdle to overcome when it is not the case.

One of my favourite return to work success stories is a client who had multiple medical conditions (including chronic pain and mental health conditions). He secured a job in an aviation-related role that allowed him to feel valued, contribute to society and continue providing for his family. It was wonderful to be part of his journey in finding a fulfilling role post-ADF.

But finding meaning is certainly not just about work. Another of my biggest successes was an individual who identified the goal of having an assistance dog to improve his community engagement. Throughout his case management he worked with an amazing organisation to train a beautiful dog to support him. This provided so many opportunities for him, as with his dog he was empowered to do more within the community.

Ultimately, everyone's journey is different, and our job as rehabilitation providers is to make that path as smooth as it can be.

Learn more about job opportunities with Konekt Workcare on our website, and subscribe below for more articles on rehab and support.

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