Paul Corbett - Graduate

May 11, 2011
Paul Corbett
Paul Corbett - Graduate

Paul Corbett left high school with a diploma, 30 semester-hours of college credit and big ambitions. But it didn’t take long before he learned that the college experience doesn’t always live up to its promise. “I was really looking forward to it,” he says. “It just wasn’t as challenging as I’d hoped it would be.”

So Corbett left before the end of his first year to find the challenge he wanted in the United States Marine Corps, where he enlisted in 2000.  During the next four years, Corbett would see 22 countries on five continents and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now Corbett faces a new test as the Veteran and Military Caseworker and Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, a position he earned as a fellow in the Wounded Warrior Program. “I basically handle any issue that a veteran or military member, or their dependents, may have,” he says, “from tax issues, pension issues, education issues—anything if they’re military.”

Corbett, who now holds a degree in social work from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, says that he’s particularly interested in the kind of “macro-level social work” that deals with policy. “I want to make something big,” he says.

He’s certainly on his way.

Since May of 2011, when he began his position with Ms. Tsongas’s office, Corbett says he’s opened more than 200 new cases and assisted veterans and their dependents obtain a total of about $300,000 due to them. Most recently, Corbett has worked on veterans’ transportation issues for Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley and a broad plan to combat homelessness in the city of Lowell, which he hopes will become a model for other cities and towns across the country.

Corbett did a tremendous amount of outreach in his first few months on the job. He says that most local veterans organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans, close-shop during the summer months. So he visited “every single U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility within 30 square miles.” That investment yielded huge returns for Corbett and those he serves, particularly in the recent case of a veteran who needed care at a nursing facility. “It was the time spent doing that outreach that helped get people on board to help this guy,” he says.

Corbett will return to graduate school after his fellowship to earn a master’s degree in social work. He says his ultimate goal is to spend his career helping his fellow veterans as a licensed clinical social worker in the VA. “I’m somebody they can talk to because I know what it was like,” he says. “I understand because I’m a part of it.”

Corbett ended  his fellowship in June 2012 to accept a position with the Department of Veterans Affairs as the VISN-1 Community Outreach Specialist for Eastern Massachusetts.