Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Veteran Credits CWT Program with Saving his Life
In 2016, Marine Corps Veteran Brian Goodwin was unemployed, living alone and struggling with psychosis, a mental illness characterized by a disconnection from reality.
Due to a concern for his safety, VA requested that local police go to Goodwin’s home and transport him to the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center so he could be admitted to the inpatient behavioral health unit.
"The county came and picked me up and brought me here,” said Goodwin, who served four years in the Marine Corps including a year in Okinawa, Japan. “I guess people were concerned about my well-being. I really didn’t know where I was. It took a while for reality to set in.”
After several weeks of inpatient treatment, Goodwin underwent outpatient mental health treatment for a year and a half. With treatment, his condition improved and VA mental health providers entered a consult for Goodwin to participate in the VA Compensated Work Therapy Transitional Work (CWT-TW) Program.
CWT-TW is a pre-employment vocational program that operates in VA medical centers and business and industry. Veterans are matched to actual work assignments for a time-limited basis, and supervised by personnel of the sponsoring site, under the same job expectations experienced by non-CWT workers.
Participants are not considered employees and receive no traditional employee benefits, but they do receive base pay determined by the prevailing wage and, at least, the Federal minimum wage.
Willie Sellers, Vocational Rehab Specialist, interviewed Goodwin and discovered he had more than 40 years of work experience as a boiler operator.
“In CWT, we try and place individuals back into their comfort zone,” said Sellers. “When I noticed he had (boiler operator) experience, I went and talked to the Engineering Service to see if I could place him in Engineering. They agreed based on his experience.”
Eight months ago, Goodwin began working in Engineering as a CWT-TW patient and said the staff not only embraced him, but helped ease his transition back into the workforce.
“Those guys are fantastic,” said Goodwin. “They’re great. They have helped me with everything I was unfamiliar with. They helped guide me.”
After six months, Goodwin completed the program and Engineering offered him employment as a full-time VA employee.
“That was huge for me,” he said. “I’m in my 60’s, but I’m going to keep coming until they tell me I can’t come here no more. I think the work has helped me a lot.”
Goodwin credits the teamwork of CWT, Mental Health and Engineering for saving his life.
“You still have the issues you have, but I don’t have to deal with it all by myself,” he said. “There’s a bunch of really good people here. I can’t say enough nice things about them. That’s coming from my heart.”