Kayla M. Williams

Kayla M. Williams
Senior Policy Researcher
Washington Office


M.A. in international affairs, American University; B.A. in English literature, Bowling Green University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Kayla Williams (she/her) is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation; her focus areas include optimizing policies and programs to support veterans and military personnel. She was most recently Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she provided executive level oversight and direction to OPIA's team of nearly 80 employees who communicate VA's key messages to multiple audiences through diverse direct and indirect channels. She was previously a senior fellow and director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at Center for a New American Security and prior to that served as director of the Center for Women Veterans at VA. Williams previously spent eight years at RAND researching servicemember and veteran health needs and benefits, international security, and intelligence policy. She was enlisted for five years and authored the memoirs Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army and Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War. She served on the Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach, Army Education Advisory Committee, and VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans; her recognitions include 2013 White House Woman Veteran Champion of Change and 2015 Lincoln Award recipient. Williams has an M.A. in international affairs from American University and a B.A. in English literature from Bowling Green State University.

Previous Positions

Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs

Recent Projects

  • Invisible Wounds
  • RAND Military Workplace Study
  • Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: NPR, Morning Edition; WAMU, 1A; The World, Public Radio


  • Military Personnel

    Who Should We Honor on Memorial Day?

    The cost of war is not borne solely by soldiers on the field of battle, and for too many, the field of battle is unavoidable. Widening notions of whom we honor, and how, are signs of progress—but they are just a start.

    May 30, 2023

    New York Times

  • Military Veterans

    The Ripples of War Are Only Beginning to Spread. Is America Ready?

    There are now more than 1.9 million U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 50,000 were physically injured and around 15 percent have experienced PTSD. Perhaps all were exposed to burn pits and other toxins. What are the long-term impacts of the wars on those who fought them?

    Mar 23, 2023

    The War Horse

  • Iraq

    Twenty Years After the Iraq War, a Q&A with RAND Experts

    On the 20th anniversary of the war in Iraq, RAND experts discussed what the war means for the people of Iraq and the veterans who fought there, what lessons the U.S. military learned (or did not learn), and what effect it has had on the balance of power in the Middle East and the global reputation of the United States.

    Mar 21, 2023

    The RAND Blog

  • Military Veterans

    Improving Inclusion of Women Veterans

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is formally changing its official mission statement to be more inclusive. This is a meaningful step forward in symbolically affirming the VA's dedication to serving all who served.

    Mar 17, 2023

    The Hill

  • Military Veterans

    Reducing Racial Disparities in VA Disability Compensation Decisions

    Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough recently announced formation of an equity team to examine and address racial differences in disability compensation grant rates. This is encouraging progress, particularly after years of reluctance on the part of the department to acknowledge there might be a problem.

    Mar 13, 2023

    The RAND Blog

  • Military Veterans

    Veterans Need to Share Their Stories

    In his book War and Homecoming: Veteran Identity and the Post-9/11 Generation, Travis Martin explores how veterans see themselves—and how that is influenced by the way civilians see them. He delves into stereotypes of military service, then argues that veterans can craft their own identities by telling their own stories.

    Dec 1, 2022

    Association of the U.S. Army

  • Veterans Employment

    The Mutual Rewards of Hiring a Veteran: Q&A with Kyleanne Hunter and Kayla Williams

    July 25 is National Hire a Veteran Day, and its purpose is to encourage employers to look to this diverse pool of workers to fill positions. Employers stand to benefit from the experience and skills that veterans acquire during military service. For veterans, a fulfilling career can ease the transition to civilian life.

    Jul 25, 2022

  • Veterans Health Care

    Book Review: 'Women at War'

    Today, women represent approximately 15 percent of the U.S. military but research on their specific physical and psychological health issues has remained relatively sparse. A new book, Women at War, attempts to change that.

    Dec 21, 2015

    Army Magazine

  • Military Veterans

    Learning to Let Go

    Kayla Williams discusses being a minority in the veterans' community, then finding a group of other female veterans, strangers who knew more about her life than many family members.

    Apr 16, 2015

    More Magazine

  • Military Families

    From Combat to Caregiving: Q&A with Kayla Williams

    Kayla Williams talks about being a female soldier and the spouse of a wounded warrior, why veterans aren't broken and caregivers aren't saints, and more.

    Mar 6, 2015

  • Iraq

    On the Fall of Mosul

    Despite the belief that liberal democracy is the best system of government, America's own history clearly demonstrates that the path to it can be long and painful.

    Jun 19, 2014

    The Hill

  • Military Veterans

    Women Writing War: A List of Essential Contemporary War Literature by Women

    Women veterans are telling their stories, adding to the tales of war and homecoming that men have been recording from the Odyssey and Iliad on. Their diverse voices can deepen our understanding of who volunteers to serve in today's military and what they experience.

    May 28, 2014

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • Military Caregivers

    Finding a New Normal: A Military Caregiver's Perspective

    The landscape for caregivers remains very difficult. Many still need additional training on how to best provide care for their loved ones, respite so they can care for themselves, and other forms of support.

    May 6, 2014

    Blue Star Families

  • Military Veterans

    Nonprofits and Bridging the Civil-Military Divide

    Troops, veterans, and military families can go to the National Resource Directory to find help if they need it, and citizens can turn there to find organizations serving those communities where they can donate their time or money. Each of us can play a role in bridging the civil-military divide, but only if we take action.

    Mar 31, 2014

    The Hill

  • Military Spouses

    Dear Military Spouses: I'm Sorry

    Kayla Williams describes her difficult transition from soldier to spouse, sergeant to civilian, team leader to caregiver. Two books by military wives opened her eyes to the challenges and rewards of marrying into the military, and the unique kind of service military families experience.

    Feb 27, 2014

    The Huffington Post

  • Military Veterans

    Will America Forget Its Veterans?

    The needs of U.S. veterans will not end when the war does; they will just be beginning. Though over a lifetime veterans are more highly educated, employed, and paid than their civilian counterparts, the period of reintegration can be challenging.

    Feb 18, 2014

    Christian Science Monitor

  • Invisible Wounds of War

    According to a recent RAND Corporation study about these

    Jun 1, 2008

    Voices of Tomorrow