Background - Numerous programs exist to support veterans in their transitions to civilian life. Programs are offered by a host of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. Veterans report encountering many barriers to program participation. This was the first study to identify barrier reduction strategies offered by programs that post-9/11 veterans report using, determine which strategies veterans use and value, and to examine veteran characteristics that impact their odds of using programs that offer barrier reduction strategies.
Method - This study reflects findings from the first wave of data collection of The Veterans Metrics Initiative, a longitudinal study examining the military-to-civilian reintegration of post-9/11 veterans. Veterans were asked to indicate which programs they had used. The websites of these programs were coded for the barrier reduction components. Veterans also indicated which barrier reduction components they found most helpful in meeting their reintegration goals.
Results - Of 9,566 veterans who participated in Wave 1 data collection, 84% reported using a program that offered at least one barrier reduction component. Barrier reduction components included tangible supports (e.g., scholarships, cash), increased access to programs, decreased stigma, and encouraged motivation to change. Although only 4% of programs that were used by veterans focused on helping them obtain Veterans Administration benefits, nearly 60% of veterans reported that this component was helpful in reaching their goals. Access assistance to other resources and supports was also reported as a helpful barrier reduction component. For instance, approximately 20% of veterans nominated programs that offered transportation. The study also found evidence of a misalignment between the kinds of barrier reduction components veterans valued and those which programs offered. Veterans from the most junior enlisted ranks, who are at most risk, were less likely than those from other ranks to use barrier reduction components.
Conclusions – Despite the evidence that barrier reduction components enhance access to programs and contribute to program sustainability, many programs used by post-9/11 veterans do not offer them. There is also a misalignment between the barrier reduction strategies veterans value and the strategies offered by programs. Veteran serving organizations should increasingly implement barrier reduction strategies that veterans value.