Transitioning from the battlefield to the workforce isn't easy -- especially for wounded warriors. A free program offers help, but many veterans aren't taking advantage of it.
Aaron Helstrom seems indestructible, but he almost lost his life when he was in his prime. In 2003 Helstrom was a proud Marine serving in Iraq with a wife and two young daughters at home, but an explosion blew up life as he knew it.
“All I remember seeing is a cloud of dust coming at me in the face and feeling shrapnel hitting me in the face,” he said.
The blast killed two of his friends. Helstrom woke up in extreme pain with a bloody leg injury. He was told he'd never walk again.
Now a service dog helps him get around, but to do his job as a military transportation program manager, he relies on some additional support. The Computer Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) provides just that.
Disabled Defense Department employees and federal workers can get the tools they need to fulfill their duties, and they don't pay a cent.
Helstrom has a pen that records meetings while he takes notes. He also uses a computer lift that allows him to stand at the keyboard because sitting for too long can be painful.
For someone with vision loss or cognitive limitations, a high-tech scanner quickly can copy and read a document aloud. Some tools magnify small text on computer screens.
Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
“Why do so many of them young, enlisted, no college degree give up hope? Because they think, ‘I can't work. I can’t do anything. I can't provide for my family, so now I'm worthless,’” Helstrom said. “But CAP tech comes and they provide this assistance to you that makes you say, ‘Really? I can go back to school. I can work. You have something that can help me remember my day?’ It's amazing.”
Helstrom said the extra help gives him the opportunity to serve his country the way he used to.
The assistance program doesn't stop at the office. It provides equipment for telework employees as well.