Military dad holding daughter
Published on: Jan 31, 2019

There are more than 20 million military veterans in the United States, and that number is projected to grow rapidly over the next several years. Some veterans take advantage of the many public and private programs and services created to help them reintegrate into civilian life. Yet, little is known about which programs and services are being used by veterans; or what factors predict their use or non-use of these resources.

A Penn State-led research team is analyzing these programs and services as part of "The Veterans Metrics Initiative: Linking Program Components to Post-Military Well-Being" research study (TVMI Study). The TVMI Study is a public-private collaboration led by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF).

TVMI Study researchers, including those from the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State, are collecting information from recent veterans over three years to understand veterans' use and non-use of community-based resources, organizations and the Veterans Administration, all of which assist veterans to make healthy transitions from military to civilian life. Recently the research team published information about these programs and services in the Journal of Social Service Research.

According to lead author Daniel Perkins, founder and principal scientist at the Clearinghouse, the good news about veterans that is often overlooked is that “the majority of veterans do not have negative experiences as they adjust to civilian life, rather they make a successful transition back to their communities.” However, a significant number of veterans report they have difficulty with reintegration challenges.

“Some veterans face obstacles to obtaining employment and furthering their education, or have legal, financial and housing problems, along with ongoing mental and/or physical health conditions, and relationship difficulties,” Perkins said.

Tens of thousands of public and private programs were created to address these needs, but it is not well-known which of these programs and services veterans use, nor has previous research examined what predicts use or non-use of programs and services designed to help address the broad range of challenges new veterans encounter. This study was the first to ask new veterans to provide information on their use of community-based and Veterans Administration (VA) programs and services they accessed to support their transition to civilian life. Approximately, 50,000 veterans were identified and sent an online survey, and nearly 10,000 veterans completed it.

Approximately 65 percent of veterans said they used at least one program to enhance their well-being, while approximately 35 percent reported using multiple programs across various domains of well-being. Veterans primarily sought assistance for employment and educational advancement. To a lesser degree, they sought assistance for legal/financial/housing, health, and social functioning challenges.

Veterans who served at the junior enlisted ranks were much less likely to use programs and services than those from the higher enlisted and officer ranks. According to Keith Aronson, associate director of the Clearinghouse and one of the co-authors, “The findings from this study suggest that veterans, particularly those from the junior enlisted ranks, need better education about their VA benefits and more robust outreach from community-based organizations.”

Other Penn State researchers on the project were Nicole R. Morgan, research and evaluation scientist; and Julia A. Bleser, research and evaluation associate, both at the Clearinghouse.

About the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness

The Clearinghouse is an applied research center committed to advancing the health and well-being of service members and their families. The Clearinghouse takes a solution-oriented approach that includes conducting applied research studies, building workforce expertise through training and resource provision, implementing and evaluating evidence-informed programs and practices, and delivering objective data and policy-relevant findings so that decisions are based on the best science and evidence available. The Clearinghouse is located within Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute.