ALBANY, NY (WENY) — When a veteran leaves their service and returns to the civilian world, it can be challenging to reconnect with the community.
Michael Middaugh, peer veteran and Director of Veteran Services for Tioga County, said the Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Services program–a nonclinical support model by veterans to veterans struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, suicidal ideations, and other mental health challenges–gives veterans opportunities to make connections.
“So many of our veterans think that nobody understands what they’re going through, but they don’t realize there’s a whole lot of veterans out there that have experienced just what they’ve experienced and they’re not alone in this fight. They have a battle buddy there,” Middaugh said.
Other veterans said the rehabilitative opportunities ranging from community dinners to art classes, bowling and even bee keeping can be life saving.
For Dan Arnold, Director of Veteran Engagement at Veterans One-Stop of WNY, getting involved and working with veterans through the Dwyer program turned his life around.
“When I got back here, I felt lost, I was going job to job, I had some anger issues, I was drinking. Things weren’t good, my family life wasn’t good. So, I needed to make a change and I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
Arnold said since he found this job, it’s given him a sense of fulfillment.
“It turned my quality of life around and I swear by this program,” he said.
Gov. Hochul proposes $7.7 million in her budget for the Dwyer program. Some lawmakers feel this is not enough
“Budgeting is about priorities. And if we’re not addressing our priorities and our most vulnerable—when you think of our veterans who already sacrifice so much for us, for our freedom to protect us. And these peer-to-peer services are absolutely critical,” said Assembly Member Phil Palmesano (R-Corning).