Challenges arise among veterans who struggle to adapt back into civilian life, and the result can be devastating. Domestic violence, high divorce rates, financial difficulties, drug abuse, incarceration and suicide are some of the real issues plaguing our US veterans. Currently, veterans represent about 11 percent of America’s homeless population, and approximately 40,000 are homeless each night, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additionally, the VA estimates up to 20 percent of troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 have come home reporting PTSD.
In July 2016, the Veterans Administration released the results of the most comprehensive suicide study ever conducted by the department. The shocking results revealed that on average, 20 veterans commit suicide each day, accounting for 18 percent of all suicides in America.
There is a flaw in the present system. When an individual enters the military, they undergo seven to 13 weeks of boot camp (depending on the armed service branch). This intense basic training helps to prepare the recruits both mentally and physically for life in the military, and the transition into the new, highly disciplined, culture. However, upon departure from the military, there is very little training and assistance with the conversion back into civilian life. Successful re-entry requires a shift in mindset – to that of a civilian – a completely different perspective than their time during active duty.
"The inside picture configured for combat, and that type of environment has not changed, so when they get into the civilian community, the inside picture does not match the outside picture, so they are in a state of constant confusion. They don’t feel like they fit in.”
Maurice Wilson, President and executive director and cofounder of NVTSI
Let us introduce the REBOOT Workshop™ (REBOOT), the nation’s first reverse boot camp – a program offered by the National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. (NVTSI). REBOOT’s mission is to assist veterans in making a successful transition from military service to civilian life through behavioral education. The complimentary workshop is three weeks in length, and includes three phases of holistic, cognitive-behavioral training.
Headquartered in San Diego California, NVTSI was established by a group of retired high-ranking Naval and Marine Corps officers and Workforce Development professionals, who sought to fill the tremendous gap in veteran transition services. Retired US Navy veteran, co-founder Maurice Wilson, created REBOOT after his experience as Vice President of Workforce Development for the Urban League in San Diego, and working with The Pacific Institute®.
The Pacific Institute (TPI) is the perfect partner to incorporate into the REBOOT program. A performance psychology-based company, TPI is an international organization that develops and provides cognitive belief-based educational training. The Pacific Institute curriculum is the foundation of the REBOOT Workshop, as it guides the change in thinking, essential to the veterans transition.
For the program’s design, Maurice took the three components which are utilized in military boot camp: a new identity, a mission with a purpose, and a new career. The same components are incorporated into the REBOOT.
Week 1 begins with the ‘personal transition’ – finding a new personal identity, facilitated by The Pacific Institute’s education.
Week 2 includes ‘lifestyle transition’ – finding a new personal mission and passion, which is run by Operation Legacy (a group established by psychologists and veterans).
Week 3 is ‘career transition’ – involves converting passion into a new career, then developing the tools to search for and secure a job, organized by Workforce Development.
The results have been astonishing. In the past four years, NVTSI and REBOOT have:
- Graduated over 1500 service members/ veterans.
- Conducted 85 classes (including 5 all-female classes).
- Maintained a 97% employment/ education success rate:
- 49% choose to attend school
- 51% gained employment
- Started focused workshops designed for people with disabilities.
- Gained national recognition by the White House as ‘Champions of Change’
- Developed partnerships with established national organizations: Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Easter Seals, and Wounded Warrior Project
The program does not solely benefit recent veterans. Success has also occurred during outreach programs with veterans of the Vietnam war. In 2013, newly appointed Director of Michigan Veterans Affairs, Jeff Barnes, went to San Diego in search of best practices. After meeting with NVTSI, Director Barnes sought to adopt REBOOT, and allocated funds to do so. The first Detroit REBOOT Workshop™ was offered in 2014 to homeless Vietnam veterans. There had been some difficulty in filling the initial workshop, but by the end of the 3-week session the participants were so impressed, they volunteered to fill the next workshop with other homeless veterans who could benefit. Four months later, the next event offered in Detroit was full.
REBOOT’s success has also been celebrated by The White House’s Performance Improvement Council, the University of San Diego’s Program audit team, and the Pepperdine University research team.
Additionally, the program has been externally evaluated by the University of San Diego’s Caster Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research through an independent study.
When compared to traditional Department of Defense transition programs, there is an evident contrast: The impact and return on investment is significant. Results include:
- Increased employment
- Improved job placement, stability and retention
- Improved economic productivity
- Improved individual and family health and well-being
- Reduced social service costs
- Reduced criminal justice costs • Reduced homelessness
- Improved productivity
- Improved public perception of veteran treatment
Unlike other government funded programs, REBOOT takes a broader, holistic approach, therefore, has struggled to meet funding criteria. However, on August 26th, 2016, the California Employment Training Panel approved REBOOT for funding – a huge step forward in program expansion.
Since NVTSI offers the program free of charge to all eligible veterans, REBOOT looks to gain future sponsorship through corporations and individuals. NVTSI will continue to work to gain additional government funding, with the goal of offering REBOOT to every veteran in the US.