The Segs4Vets Program
Segs4Vets, a highly acclaimed nonprofit organization, awards Segways and ALLY Chair adapted Segways to men and women of the United States military who have sustained severe injuries resulting in permanent disability. While the program's historical focus has been on those who have served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, it has since been able to broaden its support to other disabled Veterans who meet specific criteria.
The program began in 2005 as an unprecedented grass-roots effort by volunteers who passionately believed when those serving our Nation were sent into harm’s way and were severly injured, upon their return they must have access to every available resource which would allow for their successful reintegration into their communities and encourage them to follow a path of independence rather than dependence.
In 2014 Segs4Vets, in addition to awarding Segways, began fabricating and awarding ALLY Chairs, adapted Segways which are operated in a seated position, for those who have unique needs and cannot make productive use of the Segway standing. These tools are solving many of the mobility issues facing our disabled veterans in a manner which is both psychologically uplifting and physically beneficial. It rekindles the desire and the motivation for them to continue to serve themselves, their families and their communities.The impact of the program resonates well beyond ore recipients; it extends to their spouses, children, parents, family members and friends whose lives have also been turned upside down.
The program made its first presentation in September of 2005 to three recipients who were injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was conceived and implemented with the assistance of Gen. Ralph "Ed" Eberhart, USAF (Ret), President of the Armed Forces Benefits Association. Following that presentation, the Segs4Vets program began the process of seeking a waiver to allow the awarding of Segways to active-duty military personnel who had been disabled while serving in support of OIF and/or OEF. In August 2006, the Segs4Vets program became the only recipient of a blanket waiver from the United States military allowing a donation in excess of $1,000 to active-duty military personnel.
In May 2006, Colonel William J. O'Brien, USMC (Ret), was the Director of the Department of the Navy's Severely Injured Marines and Sailors Initiative (SIMS), a pilot program enacted under Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy H.C. "Barney" Barnum. This program facilitated the full integration of injured service members into the Marine Corps and Navy, or to assist in their transition into the private sector. Colonel O'Brien became aware of the Segs4Vets program and the benefits that the Segway could provide to injured Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen. In July 2006, the small staff of the SIMS program, Colonel O'Brien, HMC Christine Jensen, USN, and Joseph Wade began collaborating with the Segs4Vets volunteers encouraging the program to serve more OIF and OEF severely injured. The result of this collaboration was the first major Segs4Vets presentation ceremony on December 7, 2006, during a SIMS luncheon at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia. In May 2007, the SIMS program concluded its work having identified gaps in coverage and recommended solutions for those deficiencies. However, that first Segs4Vets presentation ceremony set a standard for the coming years.
In 2006, Segs4Vets established assessment and training programs at these military rehabilitative facilities: Walter Reed National Military Medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Later in 2008, a program was created at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California. These programs remain in operation today.
The Segs4Vets organization and its volunteers have recieved numerous awards and recognition. These include the Spirit of Hope Award for outstanding service to the United States of America presented by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Secretary of the Army’s Public Service Award for distinguished public service in providing outstanding support to our Nation’s Veterans, and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Distinguished Citizen Award. Segs4Vets, a member of the Military Family and Veterans Service Organizations of America, has been certified as one of the best charities in America by the Independent Charities of America. This honor is accorded to fewer than 2,000 of the more than one million public charities in the United States.
Segs4Vets is staffed primarily by volunteers across the country. Many of those volunteers give in excess of 30 days of their time annually. In comparison to other nonprofits serving our nation’s wounded warriors, the Segs4Vets program is very small; however, the tangible results achieved by it are among the most dramatic. Funding continues to be a challenge to meet the needs of our continuing casualties in Afghanistan and the percentage of those medically evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom over the last ten years The goal is to award 150 Segways annually, which while far below the projected need, is a number which is currently achievable until additional funding opportunities present themselves.
Since 2005, Seg4Vets has awarded almost 2,000 Universally Designed Mobility devices, Segways and Ally Chairs, and continues to provide support services to more than 400 Veterans and their families annually. The successful implementation and continuation of the Segs4Vets program will have a generational impact on American society.