DAV Magazine March/April 2018 : Page 11

disability or mental health treatment is another component of care, and the center has psychologists and social workers on site trained to assist veterans who are adjusting to vision loss. Cleveland explained that, just like at the onset of other disabilities, many veterans first focus on what they believe they cannot do. Sports usually rank high on that list, but through adaptation and rehabilitation training, veterans can master an activity like they could prior to vision loss. “The patients feel empowered,” said Cleveland, who additionally supports the National Disabled Veterans TEE (Training, Experience and Exposure) Tournament. “It Corie Gallagher, a blind rehabilitation specialist fellow at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital Central Blind Rehabilitation Center, teaches serves as a good opportunity for veterans to Dan Westberg about personalizing new technology that will make it use all of the skills they learn here in a safe easier to use his computer at home. environment.” The center sends a large team of veterans annually to the tournament, which began 25 years ago behind and do anything we want—and do it well.” as a local program for blind patients at the Iowa City VA After gaining confidence in his abilities following Medical Center. The event—now co-hosted by DAV and vision loss, Westberg also realized he did not have to the VA—has since expanded to include more veterans give up restoring classic cars, a passion he has held nationwide. Hundreds gather in Iowa each autumn to for more than four decades. He has now restored 30 develop new skills and strengthen self-esteem through vehicles, including three that were completed post-adaptive golf and rehabilitative activities, including vision loss. bowling, horseback riding and kayaking. The Iowa resident returned to the center for several “The TEE Tournament illustrates that, regardless weeks of additional living skills and technology training of illness or injury, the only limits disabled or visually in January, following the death of his wife. The center impaired veterans have are the ones we place on staff worked to ensure he has the tools and resources ourselves,” said Past National Commander Dave at home to continue living independently. For his part, Riley, a quadruple amputee and two-time tournament Westberg said he would recommend the center to any participant. “The VA blind rehabilitation centers provide veteran struggling with vision loss. my brothers-and sisters-in-arms the resources and “I know I’ll lose my sight someday, and I want to be confidence required to continue being independent and ready for it,” said Westberg. “They keep helping me, and break down barriers facing visually impaired veterans.” I keep coming back.” ■ Thanks to his training at the clinic, along with his Learn More Online experiences at the TEE Tournament, Westberg learned Any eligible veteran or active-duty service member that his visual impairments were not a limitation, but who is legally blind or has severe vision loss rather an opportunity to challenge himself. may receive training at any of the 13 VA blind “I never golfed before I lost my vision, and now I rehabilitation centers. Service connection is not a have gone to the Golden Age Games and I have won requirement. To learn more, visit rehab.va.gov/ the TEE Tournament,” said Westberg. “I get chills just blindrehab or call 202-461-7317. thinking about it. They get us motivated to get off our DAV.ORG | FACEBOOK.COM/DAV | @DAVHQ | @DAVHQ 11

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