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Research Questions

  1. How do veterans in Massachusetts compare with their veteran peers in other states and with nonveterans in Massachusetts in terms of education, employment, health and well-being, and housing, financial, and legal status?
  2. What resources are available to Massachusetts veterans and National Guard/reserve members at the national, state, and local levels?
  3. What are the needs for these services among Massachusetts veterans and National Guard/reserve members, and what are the perceived barriers to accessing these services?
  4. How can service providers and organizations that serve veterans and service members in Massachusetts better address unmet needs and improve access to resources among these populations?

Massachusetts is home to approximately 380,000 of the nation's more than 21 million veterans, but there has been little research on the resources available to this population at the state level. There are numerous resources available to veterans and other military-affiliated groups in Massachusetts, but there are still pockets of unmet need in the areas of education, employment, health care, housing, financial, and legal services — particularly for newer veterans and current National Guard/reserve members. Although Massachusetts veterans fare better overall than their peers in other states, they lag behind other Massachusetts residents in terms of health and financial status. Massachusetts veterans and National Guard/reserve members who need support and services face such barriers as a lack of knowledge about how to access services, a lack of awareness about eligibility, and geographic distance from service providers. As the veteran population changes both nationally and in Massachusetts, it will be important for public- and private-sector providers serving Massachusetts veterans and service members to continue addressing unmet needs while ensuring that resources are responsive to shifts in these populations. A better understanding of the unique needs of Massachusetts veterans can help inform investments in initiatives that target these populations and guide efforts to remedy barriers to accessing available support services and other resources.

Key Findings

Massachusetts Veterans Fare Better Than Veterans in Other States but Not as Well as Nonveteran Massachusetts Residents

  • Massachusetts veterans are slightly older, have higher incomes, and are more likely to have health insurance than veterans in other states.
  • Within Massachusetts, veterans are considerably older than nonveterans. Although they have lower incomes, on average, veterans are less likely to live below the poverty line and more likely to own their home. However, veterans have poorer health and higher rates of chronic health conditions than their nonveteran peers.

Post-9/11 Veterans and National Guard/Reserve Members Have More Unmeet Needs Than Veterans from Earlier Service Eras

  • Veterans who served after 9/11 and current National Guard/reserve members were considerably more likely to screen positive for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder than veterans from earlier service eras, and almost half reported binge drinking.
  • While most Massachusetts veterans reported that their income was sufficient to cover basic expenses, almost 40 percent of National Guard/reserve members reported having difficulty covering basic expenses.
  • Around 20 percent of post-9/11 veterans and National Guard/reserve members reported an unmet need for employment services — rates much higher than those of their peers from earlier service eras.
  • Not knowing how to access services or being unaware of eligibility for services were the primary barriers to using available resources.

Recommendations

  • Implement strategies to connect veterans to existing resources by raising awareness of available services, improving coordination among service providers and veterans' organizations, enhancing navigation assistance, and integrating service providers in a way that gives veterans centralized access to resources.
  • Improve the quality of employment transition opportunities, with a focus on training veterans for meaningful careers in the civilian sector.
  • Train community-based mental health care providers, with an emphasis on promoting greater understanding of the unique experiences and needs of veterans and service members.
  • Promote networks among veterans. Facilitating these connections fosters a sense of familiarity and contributes to relationship building. Veterans also learn about available resources through conversations with their peers.
  • Anticipate the future needs of veterans, service members, and their families. The size and characteristics of the veteran population will change in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country over time, and it will be important for the organizations that serve this population to change in response.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Background and Methods

  • Chapter Two

    Massachusetts Veterans and the Resources Available to Support Them

  • Chapter Three

    Education and Employment

  • Chapter Four

    Health and Social Well-Being

  • Chapter Five

    Housing, Financial, and Legal Needs

  • Chapter Six

    Understanding Trends and Looking to the Future

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Additional Methodological Detail

  • Appendix B

    Resources for Massachusetts Service Members and Veterans

  • Appendix C

    Resources for Older Veterans in Massachusetts

The research described in this report was commissioned by The Klarman Family Foundation and conducted in RAND Health.

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