Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability:


Volume 22, Number 1, 2009


Joseph W. Madaus;
University of Connecticut

These are challenging, interesting, and potentially historic times for Disability Services (DS) offices in the United States. Programs are feeling the impact of unprecedented budget issues that are facing institutions throughout the country (Basken, 2008; Selingo, 2008). The recent passage of the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008 (ADAA) presents new requirements that are changing how programs make decisions about eligibility for services.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of veterans are returning home from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan. With the recent passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, it is expected that as many as two million veterans will enroll in postsecondary education (American Council on Education, 2008). It is estimated by the Rand Corporation (2008) that as many as 25% of these veterans will have hidden disabilities, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression, while other veterans will return with physical and sensory impairments.

Not all postsecondary institutions will feel the impact in the same way. In this issue, author Thomas E. Church (2009) notes that institutions near military bases or VA Hospitals may see larger numbers of students. State institutions may also see direct impact. At one state institution in Connecticut, it is estimated that veterans make up nearly 10% of the entire student body (Altimari, 2008). Service providers at these schools have a direct and clear need for information about how to best serve veterans with disabilities, and can emerge as campus leaders that provide this population of students with the services they so rightly deserve. The articles in this issue provide cutting edge information related to solving documentation issues, providing reasonable accommodations, collaborating with other campus offices, and helping veterans with disabilities transition to employment.

However, regardless of location or institutional type, it is critically important for disability service providers to be knowledgeable and proactive campus leaders. As several articles in this issue point out, veterans may not be willing to seek out DS. In regards to disclosure, documentation, and understanding the need for accommodations, veterans face different issues than traditional students. Thus, the fact that a DS office has no or few registered veterans with disabilities does not mean that these students are not on campus. Rather, it may point to the need for new methods of reaching out to students, most likely in collaboration with other campus services. Several of the articles in this issue provide suggestions related to how DS offices can become part of the planning process on campus to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for veterans with disabilities.

Overview of the Articles

This special issue begins with a foreword by Paul D. Grossman, who challenges postsecondary institutions and DS providers to become forceful leaders in promoting the civil rights of veterans to avoid a “perfect storm” of pending crises. Joseph W. Madaus, Wayne K. Miller II, and Mary Lee Vance provide a historical perspective of how postsecondary institutions have provided services for veterans with disabilities. Noting that veterans have long been catalysts in the development of DS, the authors comment that the current conditions can serve to move DS to a new level of development and campus leadership.

The next article by Mary Lee Vance and Wayne K. Miller II provides the resultsof a nationwide survey of members of the Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD) related to serving wounded warriors. This study serves as the seminal look at current statistics and practices in this area.

Next, Allan L. Shackelford addresses the key issues of student disclosure and documentation. This article presents strategies and solutions for DS providers to work with veterans with disabilities as they attempt to obtain documentation of their disability.

This is followed by an article by Thomas E. Church, who provides a descriptionof some of the common injuries facing veterans of OIF and OEF and how these can impact access to postsecondary education. Common accommodations and useful resources are also presented.

The second half of the issue deals with new methods of service delivery. Sandra E. Burnett and John Segoria describe how the unique needs of veterans can be met through collaboration between DS offices, veterans affairs offices, other campus services, and community agencies.

Cheryl Branker presents suggestions related to how colleges can use the concept of Universal Design (UD) to create a better-prepared and balanced environment for veterans. The issue concludes with an article by Debra Ruh, Paul Spicer, and Kathleen Vaughan related to how collaboration between DS offices and other campus offices, community agencies and employers can help veterans transition to employment.

Two themes echo throughout these articles. The first is that DS providers face a new set of challenges in ensuring that veterans with disabilities receive access to the education that they deserve. The second is that the field is at a crossroads, but in rising to meet these challenges, the DS profession can emerge as a leader in campus initiatives and in the promotion of the civil rights of all students with disabilities.


American Council on Education. (2008, November). Serving those who serve:Higher education and America’s veterans. Issue Brief. Retrieved November 30, 2008 from

Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, S. 3406; Public Law110 325.

Altimari, D. (2008, March 19). Soldier to student: Even amid campus calm, veterans can struggle to make the transition. Hartford Courant, pp. A1, A6.

Basken, P. (2008, November 28). Rising enrollments buoy some colleges, burden others. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A1, A14, A15.

Church, T. E. (2009). Returning veterans on campus with war related injuries and the long road back home. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 22(1), 224-232.

Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research (2008, April). Invisible wounds: Mental health and cognitive care needs of America’s returning veterans. Retrieved November 27, 2008 from

Selingo, J. (2008, November 7). State budgets are likely to squeeze 2-Year colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A1, A19.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Assistance Act of 2008, H.R. 2642; Public Law 110-252.

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