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Information for Veterans - Compensated Work Therapy

CWT - Home |   For Veterans |   For Employers  |  Locations   | Services  | Success Stories 

Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) is a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinical vocational rehabilitation program offered at every VA medical center.


The mission of CWT services is to provide support to Veterans living with mental illness or physical impairment with barriers to employment to secure and maintain community based competitive employment.

Veterans are not required to be service connected to be eligible for CWT services.  To be considered for participation in the CWT program, a Veteran must be eligible to receive VA healthcare services, have a goal of a return to competitive employment and have barriers to obtaining and/or retaining employment which requires the intensive supports provided by one of the CWT service components. 

To begin the process of determining if CWT services are appropriate, a Veteran would first meet with their provider about having a consult or order sent to the CWT program.  Once a consult is received, the CWT staff contact the Veteran to schedule an appointment.  At the appointment, the CWT staff provide an orientation to all the services CWT provides, perform an intake and begin the process of conducting a vocational assessment to determine if CWT is an appropriate service and if so, which CWT component would help the Veteran realize their vocational goal(s).  An individual employment rehabilitation plan is developed for each Veteran receiving CWT services focused on each Veteran’s strengths, skills, abilities, needs, goals, and preferences.

CWT Transitional Work (TW) and CWT Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment (SE) are provided for Veterans by clinical consult at every VA medical center. Other CWT services that may be offered depending upon Veteran demand and program resources include Community Based Employment Services (CBES), Vocational Assistance, Supported Self-Employment (SSE) and Supported Education (SEd).  Career planning and job retention are elements provided in all CWT services.  

Participation in VA’s CWT program can be life-changing for Veterans and staff. Check out this testimonial from Russ, a Veteran who credits CWT with helping him to get his life on track.

Veterans interested in learning more about the Compensated Work Therapy program should contact their local VA Medical Center.

 Check with your local CWT program to find out which of the following services are available:

  • CWT Transitional Work (TW):  TW is a pre-employment vocational program that operates in VA medical centers (VAMC) and business and industry.  CWT/TW participants are matched to actual work assignments for a time-limited basis.  Veterans are supervised by personnel of the sponsoring site, under the same job expectations experienced by non-TW workers.  TW participants are not considered employees and receive no traditional employee benefits.  Participants receive base pay determined by the prevailing wage and at least, the Federal minimum wage.  In states having a minimum wage which exceeds Federal minimum wage, state or local minimum wage must be utilized.  The expectation is that TW participant’s transition from the vocational work assignment to competitive employment in the community.
  • CWT Supported Employment (SE):  SE is intended for Veterans with significant barriers to employment due to psychosis or other severe mental illnesses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and/or physical disabilities such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) who, because of the severity of their disabilities, would not be able to function independently in employment without intensive, ongoing support services.  This includes ongoing vocational assessments, rapid/individualized job search, job development and placement, assertive engagement and follow-along supports provided in the context of clinical treatment.
  • CWT Community Based Employment Services (CBES):  Community–Based Employment Services (CBES) is a program that is less intensive than Supported Employment and is not restricted to Veterans with diagnosis of psychosis.  CBES provides a range of services leading to direct placement in competitive employment, where an employer hires the Veteran, and the Veteran receives continuing clinical support.  CBES support services include skills training, job development, job placement, supportive counseling, and interventions within the work environment when needed to ensure the continued employment and self-sufficiency of the Veteran.
  • CWT Supported Self-Employment (SSE): Provides guidance on business practices, training, networking opportunities, and linkages with community financial institutions that will assist many Veterans with disabilities in achieving the benefits from self-employment.  Self-employment can offer many benefits to Veterans including the ability to perform preferred work activities in work settings of the Veteran’s choice, flexible work hours and schedules, self-management, a wide array of disability accommodations when needed, and the potential to generate substantial income.
  • CWT Supported Education (SEd):  Provides individualized supports for Veterans engaged in education and training programs as well as linkages with educational facilities that will facilitate Veterans successfully achieving their instructional goals. 
  • Vocational Assistance:  Vocational Assistance is a set of assessment, guidance, counseling, or other related services that may be offered to groups or individuals. These services are short-term and are designed to enable Veterans to realize skills, resources, attitudes, and expectations needed to prepare for searching for employment, succeeding in the employment interview process, and succeeding in employment without the need for ongoing job search, job development or follow-up support.