Veterans Research Alliance
Give Back to Local Veterans
Veterans Research Alliance
Military veterans are the pride and joy of our country––selfless acts of patriotism from these men and women protect our freedoms daily. Yet when veterans return home, the transition to civilian life is not always smooth. Many service members return with physical disabilities or emotional strain, and they need to obtain continuous medical treatments, adequate jobs and proper housing. Fortunately, San Diego offers supportive services for our veterans through the Veterans Research Alliance (VRA).
According to the VRA’s Executive Director Steve Lewandowski, “The VRA was formed to serve as an independent non-profit organization charged [with raising] critically-needed private sector funds to supplement government grants. These funds fuel innovative, life-saving research and educational programs in San Diego.”
The VRA primarily serves veterans residing in San Diego County, which has been a strong military town for the past century. San Diego has one of the strongest veteran populations in the U.S. with roughly 240,000 veterans, including 37,000 post 9/11 veterans––the largest in the nation. Due to this heavy influx of service members coping with medical challenges, there is an urgent need for the VRA in Southern California.
As a third generation veteran and a former naval officer, Lewandowski is fully aware of the aftermath of war and the utmost need for medical services. “Just because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not garnering as many headlines, [that] doesn’t mean our members in uniform are no longer in need of services,” Lewandowski explains. “For some, the effects of war––such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)––are just starting… We owe it to the few brave service members who volunteer to fight to also get the best medical treatment possible.”
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD are two of the most commonly reported mental health issues facing many veterans upon returning from overseas. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to suicide. According to the VRA, 22 veterans commit suicide daily, often as a result of TBI and PTSD.
Since early 2014, the VRA has been successfully partnering with non-profit organizations and private enterprises to collect funds. To date, the VRA has funded:
The Cognitive Rehabilitation Study. The VRA purchased and donated to a VA healthcare researcher the necessary equipment to support a study examining the effects of cognitive rehabilitation among veterans.
The Veteran Family Resilience Study. This study helps teach effective parenting skills, stress management and problem-solving skills to veteran families.
A pilot program for combat veterans exposed to multiple blast explosions during wars fought after 9/11. This program will also help improve diagnosis for traumatic brain injury so more effective treatments can be offered.
Another undertaking still in need of funding includes a VA transportation van, which is needed to transport patients from their homes to their medical appointments. Currently, the San Diego VA Medical Center has an aging fleet of transportation in need of replacement. Funding is also required for the Veteran Suicide Prevention Study, which aims to develop methods to better identify people at imminent suicide risk. Despite economic challenges, Lewandowski remains optimistic about the VRA’s future. “We’re starting to move the needle in the veterans community by identifying needs and resources.” If you would like to learn more about contributing to the VRA, please visit Veterans Research Alliance.
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