First Driving Rehabilitation Program in Nation Helps Wounded Vets

First Driving Rehabilitation Program in Nation Helps Wounded Vets

A veteran who was injured in Afghanistan has joined forces with his occupational therapist and a driving rehabilitation specialist to help people with disabilities get back into the driving seat.

The Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence (DRCE) was founded in 2016 by Marine veteran Josh Himan and Tammy Phipps. It is the first driving rehabilitation program in the nation to offer a full range of services to those injured or with physical disabilities.

Phipps designed and developed the first and only driver rehabilitation program at the Walter Reed National Military Health Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she originally met Himan. Himan was severely injured in 2009 after he drove over an IED while on a highway. He was left paralyzed from the neck down.

In the past, Phillips recalls receiving calls from veterans all over the country who had just changed from civilian to veteran status and were in desperate need of assistance but did not have the means to search for a customized vehicle that would suit their needs.

The big problem was that only a small number of specialized occupational therapists could provide driving rehabilitation services. "There's only around 400 nationally, and that number gets smaller and smaller, the more complex the cases become," she said.

The program is located in Fairfax County, Virginia, and offers a wide array of services and benefits. Drivers will be evaluated by DRCE staff to determine which kind of auto-adaptive equipment fits their needs, which are quite specific. They ensure the equipment is installed correctly and get the injured patients back in the driver’s seat.

Veterans are not the only injured people who have benefited from the work DRCE is doing. As a result of their efforts, hundreds of seriously injured victims have been able to recover in the five years since the organization was founded in 1997.