DIAVOLO The Veterans Project;  Non-Profits and Laws Support Healing our Heroes

Via Luis Luque

On Thursday evening, The DIAVOLO Institute hosted DIAVOLO The Veterans Project at Arcadia Performing Arts Center in California.  The incredible performers of DIAVOLO as seen on America’s Got Talent shared the stage with America’s beloved Veterans.  All of our Veterans have a story, and this outreach program offers a healing solution.

The organization states “Through The DIAVOLO Institute, the company provides educational and outreach opportunities for people of all ages and abilities while touring and at home in Los Angeles, sharing the pioneering art form and the power of dance as a means of social impact.

IBUKI Via Nicholas Davidson

…The Veterans Project is a program built for veterans of the armed forces to bring back a sense of home, a sense of belonging, and a renewed sense of purpose.”

The Creative Genius and the Cash Behind DIAVOLO The Veterans Project

(L) Jennifer Cheng (R) Jacques Heim  Via Kelly Chapman

Who’s Your Lawyer?  The Producer and Executive Director of DIAVOLO The Veterans Project, Jennifer Cheng beamed as she took the stage to introduce the riveting performance.  Cheng gained inspiration from Sebastian Junger’s novel Tribe and the stories of the veterans in the community.  Hence, she created a four-month workshop series that uses movement as medicine.  Cheng, a former practicing attorney for over 25 years, reiterated her dedication to the program and her vision to launch workshops in cities across the country.

The Brave Vets Bravely Share their Stories

During a talkback session afterward, the very diverse cast shared stories of the impact of the program on their lives.  One participant in the workshop is 63 years old.  Quite a few vets sustained injuries over the years of service and felt renewed by the workshop.  One performer shared how DIAVOLO The Veterans Project helps him to combat his post-military Meth addiction.  Additionally, he openly revealed that he has HIV.

Clearly, the opportunity to work closely with those who share your struggles is always a great way to heal.  DIAVOLO found a unique way to strengthen these heroes through the challenge of learning how to dance and move.  Ironically, none of the performers are professional dancers, yet the piece is stunning!

In a surprise announcement, DIAVOLO Founder Artistic Director Jacques Heim advised Cheng that The Kennedy Center invited DIAVOLO The Veteran’s Project to perform next year.

The mixture of storytelling, shapes, emotions, and movement was breathtakingly beautiful and haunting at the same time.  Themes of PTSD, homelessness, courage, combat, brotherhood, and sisterhood embody this stirring work.  And the challenging movements using poles and other structures are incredible.

“I am there with the entire team of DIAVOLO to offer our services.  We know that movement helps, movement connects, and movement heals,” said Jacques Heim

(L) DIAVOLO The Veterans Project Performer Joseph Gamble (R) DIAVOLO Institute Performer Derion Loman  Via Kelly Chapman

Resources for Veterans with PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an illness that commonly affects many veterans.  The stress of enlisting, the physical and emotional wounds of battle, the burden of carrying the memories, and unfortunately the challenges with VA healthcare and benefits often leave many vets feeling incapacitated.  Without proper support, drugs, homelessness, health concerns and even suicide are all concerns for the veteran who transitions back to civilian life.

In February 2015, former President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (H.R. 5059). Most notably, in a bipartisan move, the Senate voted 99-0 while the House voted 403-0 in favor.  Lawmakers named the act in honor of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who earned a Purple Heart in Iraq before redeploying to Afghanistan.   After being diagnosed with PTSD, Clay sought to help others and raise awareness about depression.  Sadly, while waiting on a disability appeal to the VA, Clay committed suicide after 18 months.  His disability received approval five weeks after his death.  Clay was 28.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act: specifics

  • Requires that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs arrange for an independent third-party evaluation of the VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs. Next, to submit a report to Congress, annually with the recent evaluations and any recommendations the Secretary considers appropriate.
  • Directs the Secretary to publish a website to provide veterans with current information regarding the VA’s mental health care services.
  • Requires the Secretary to carry out a three-year pilot program to repay the education loans relating to psychiatric medicine that are incurred by individuals who:
    • are eligible to practice psychiatric medicine in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) or are enrolled in the final year of a residency program leading to a specialty qualification in psychiatric medicine;
    • demonstrate a commitment to a long-term career as a psychiatrist in the VHA; and
    • agree to a period of two or more years of obligated service with the VHA in the field of psychiatric medicine.
    • It limits the loan repayment to no more than $30,000 for each year an individual performs such obligated service.

Additional Requirements of the Clay Hunt SAV Act

  • Directs the Secretary to establish a three-year pilot program in at least five Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) for help transitioning from active duty.  Also, to improve the access of veterans to mental health services.  The pilot program must include a community-oriented veteran peer support network and a community outreach team for each medical center.
  • Authorizes the Secretary to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations to prevent suicide among veterans.
  • Extends combat veterans’ eligibility for VA hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for non-service related illnesses based upon time in active duty and other factors.  The extension is for one year.
  • Prohibits the authorization of any additional appropriations to carry out this Act’s provisions.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go towards fixing the VA system and helping our valued servicemen and women.  However, DIAVOLO The Veterans Project is a welcome support system to those in need.

Other Resources for Veterans

The Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic provides free legal assistance when the Veterans Benefits Administration improperly denies benefits to a Veteran.  For more information click here.


  1. Kelly, I won’t be 63 until APRIL. I’m 62 at the present. Thank you though for a marvelous review of the show. There was a paragraph by each or our photos out in the lobby. In that paragraph, I also admitted to contracting HIV while on active duty in 1991 and then retired in 1994 and was a CD4 count of 6 away from death in 1996. This project for me was just one more step that I needed to taken order to take better care of myself and my health.

    • Wow! I didn’t get a chance to read the bios, as I arrived 3 minutes before the opening. However, I am truly blessed to read your comment and to know that you are doing well. You have overcome quite a bit! That is AWESOME! And you don’t look 62 young man… It was a real treat to see each of you perform and share your stories and I hope to see you in Washington DC.


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