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Wounded warriors in area to get additional services
Some new staff, initiatives for area Virginia Wounded Warrior Program

Date published: 12/18/2012

By RUSTY DENNEN

Heading into its fourth year, the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program plans to build on core family and veterans' services while adding some new components.

Roger Schlimbach, spokesman for the agency here, said, "We'll be increasing our focus on families of veterans, running combat-support groups and building partnerships with other veterans' service organizations."

And there's some new staff. The agency hired a new regional coordinator, Karen Collins, an Army veteran who served in Iraq; and Suzanna Erlichman, a family-support specialist. Erlichman's husband serves in the Navy Reserves.

Her support group begins Jan. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at Fredericksburg Baptist Church.

The program has added an online resource: family ofheroes.com. It's an avatar-based training simulation, in which family members learn skills to manage the challenges they may face in adjusting to post-deployment life, according to the website. Many service members returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

The simulation aims to de-escalate arguments, negotiate family responsibilities and, if necessary, get the veteran to seek help for PTSD or thoughts of suicide.

In one scenario, Schlimbach says, a female combat veteran and her husband deal with those issues; another one shows parents of a young man returning from combat and the life and employment challenges he faces.

One core component of VWWP's programs is the use of peer specialists--veterans with combat experience--working in small groups with veterans returning from war.

A support group for female combat veterans was started last year, but attendance was sparse and it was discontinued. Men and women can attend the regular weekly support group.

There are five veteran peer specialists and a family support specialist working in the program's Region 1, which covers an area of about 30 counties from Fredericksburg, northwest to Winchester, and south to Lynchburg.

Schlimbach said one of the peer specialists is working with veterans who are inmates at the Rappahannock Regional Jail, to help them re-enter society. He's working with another peer specialist based in Hampton to coordinate the effort.

In addition, VWWP sponsors couples' retreats for service members and their spouses to promote better relationships during and after deployments.

Last year, the program served 3,617 veterans; this year, the number has been just under 5,000, Schlimbach said.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com


The Virginia Wounded Warrior Program helps veterans and their families with any stress-related problem, as well as traumatic brain injuries resulting from combat.

Created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2008, it is funded by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and administered locally by the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board.

Services include: peer support groups, family support groups, marriage counseling, family and child counseling, substance-abuse counseling, and identification and treatment of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read more on the program here: nwvawoundedwarrior.org

The combat support group, open to all veterans as well as civilian contractors who have served in combat zones, meets Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m. at Fredericksburg Baptist Church.

The family support group begins Jan. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at Fredericksburg Baptist, and will meet on the second Wednesday of each month.