Public Release: 

Kessler Foundation's Dr. Fyffe awarded $590,000 Department of Defense grant

Study of veterans with spinal cord injuries will compare care and benefits for service-related vs nonservice-related injuries

Kessler Foundation

March 17, 2016. West Orange, NJ. Denise Fyffe, PhD, was awarded a three-year grant from the Department of Defense Spinal Cord Injury Research Program to study the care for veterans with spinal cord injury (SCI) by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), comparing data for service-connected injuries with non-service-connected injuries. The 590,000 grant funds the project: Spinal Cord Injury Veterans: Disability Benefits, Outcomes, and Healthcare Utilization Patterns. Dr. Fyffe is a senior research scientist in SCI Research at Kessler Foundation.

The VA is the single largest provider of healthcare for SCI, offering rehabilitative services to 26,000 affected veterans, half of whom also receive SCI specialty care. Injuries sustained during combat operations are considered service-connected disabilities for which veterans are eligible for federal benefits, including medical care and disability compensation. Veterans with non-service connected disabilities, however, do not receive the same benefits as those with service-connected disabilities.

"Using qualitative research methods, we will collect data on the characteristics, health, functional outcomes, healthcare usage, benefits and compensation of veterans with SCI," explained Dr. Fyffe, "and compare these factors for service-connected vs non-service-connected disabilities."

This study will further our understanding of the subpopulations of veterans with SCI, their caregivers and family members. Understanding how the care and benefits rendered by the VA healthcare system influence health status, functional outcomes and healthcare usage patterns will contribute to optimal care for all veterans with SCI.

Dr. Fyffe is a co-investigator in the federally funded model system based at Kessler - the Northern New Jersey SCI System - and an assistant professor at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. Her research focuses on reducing disparities in the care and quality of life of medically underserved populations.

This research is supported by funding from the Department of Defense W81XWH-15-1-0278.


About SCI Research at Kessler Foundation

The Foundation's SCI Research Laboratory is one of the most active SCI laboratories in the country. Under the leadership of Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, and Steven Kirshblum, MD, scientists in SCI and Outcomes Research conduct investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored site-specific and multi-center studies and clinical trials. The Northern New Jersey SCI System (NNJSCIS), one of 14 model systems in the nation, provides a continuum of care and research aimed at improving the lives of people with SCI. Research funding sources include the National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research (NNJSCIS), the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the New Jersey Commission for SCI Research, and Kessler Foundation. Foundation scientists have faculty appointments at Rutgers University; selected researchers are affiliated faculty at NJIT.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

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