Q&A with Dr. Sharon M. Benedict, National Program Manager, US Department of Veterans Affairs

ParticipantEach year on November 11th, our nation honors and recognizes our military Veterans who have courageously served the United States.  NeuroRestorative is honored to serve Veterans, Active Duty Service Members and their families by providing post-acute rehabilitation and specialized community living services for individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries and other neurological injuries and illnesses.  NeuroRestorative is proud to have been chosen as a contracted provider with the Veterans Health Administration Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (AL-TBI).  We sat down with Dr. Sharon M. Benedict, National Program Manager, AL-TBI Pilot Program for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss the program.

NeuroRestorative: What is the VA Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with TBI and why was it established?

Dr. Benedict: It is a 5-year pilot program that was established to assess the effectiveness of providing Assisted Living services through private (non-VA) contracted providers such as NeuroRestorative to eligible Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) to enhance their rehabilitation, quality of life and community integration.

NeuroRestorative: What was the impetus behind the program?

Dr. Benedict: Title XVII, Section 1705 of The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in collaboration with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) of the Department of Defense to implement the pilot program.   

NeuroRestorative: Can you talk a little about how VA case managers work with Veterans and their families in coordinating the services offered by the pilot, including primary medical care and medication?

Dr.  Benedict: Each participant is assigned a VA case manager in the Veteran’s local VA who is experienced in TBI to walk them through the process.  The case manager acts as a liaison between the Veteran and his or her family, the VA and the TBI services provider by coordinating care and serving as the main point of contact.  The role of the VA case manager is vital in that they will serve as the eyes and ears on the ground for the Veteran and their family.

NeuroRestorative: How were the contracted providers chosen for the program?

Dr. Benedict: In accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations, the Veterans Healthcare Administration released a request for proposal in December 2010.  21 contracted providers were selected and notified in May of 2011. 

NeuroRestorative: What types of services do the contracted providers in the pilot offer?

Dr. Benedict: Under the pilot program, Veterans receive such services as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech as well as other therapeutic interventions in a residential rehabilitation environment of care designed to maximize independence.  

NeuroRestorative: Who is eligible for the pilot program?

Dr. Benedict: To qualify for the pilot program, Veterans must have a history of moderate to severe TBI, be enrolled in the VA, have received hospital care for TBI, be unable to manage two or more acts of daily living and require ongoing care.

NeuroRestorative: At NeuroRestorative, we have been able to get to know the Veterans and their families who are being helped by the pilot program. We have heard from many of them what a difference the program is making in their lives. I’m sure you have heard from many of the families as well. How does it make you feel to know that you are helping these families in such an important way?

Dr. Benedict: Personally, it is an honor to serve Veterans.  Each day I hear from them how grateful they are for our services.  The road to recovery can be very difficult and draining and I am proud to be able to help Veterans and their families get the care they so desperately need. 

NeuroRestorative: How do you think the program is going so far?

Dr. Benedict: The program is going very well and we receive referrals daily.  As of today (mid-October), we have placed 63 Vets and currently have 50 enrolled in 14 states throughout the country with more waiting on deck.

NeuroRestorative: What should a Veteran do if they are interested in applying for the pilot program? What about case managers looking to refer a Veteran to a program?

Dr. Benedict: To apply or make a referral to the pilot program, you should contact the Veteran’s local VA case manager who will then work closely with me to determine eligibility and placement options.

Make a referral.

Learn more about all of NeuroRestorative’s services and supports for Veterans and Active Duty Military.