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Research Questions

  1. What physical and mental health challenges do WWP alumni face?
  2. What employment challenges do WWP alumni face?
  3. How are these challenges related to WWP alumni characteristics, especially the types of service-related injuries and conditions they have experienced?

The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) offers support and raises public awareness of service members who have experienced physical or mental health conditions associated with their service on or after September 11, 2001. In this report, the authors use WWP's 2013 survey of its members (alumni) to understand the physical, mental, and economic challenges that Wounded Warriors face. The researchers find that at least half of alumni reported dealing with mental health conditions such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, and many of these alumni reported difficulties or delays in seeking mental health care, or not doing so at all. Alcohol misuse also poses a problem. A large proportion of alumni are overweight or obese, conditions that negatively affect their daily lives, exercise routines, and overall health. Almost half of alumni are not working, and there is low participation in veteran-specific employment and education programs. This information can be used to better understand the needs of WWP alumni and the ways that WWP can serve and support this constituency.

Key Findings

Wounded Warriors Need to Be Empowered in Mind and Spirit

  • More than 50 percent of WWP alumni screened positive for one of the following: probable depression, probable PTSD, or probable alcohol misuse.
  • Of alumni who screened positive, 37-47 percent reported having difficulty getting mental health care, delaying care, or not getting needed care.
  • Commonly reported barriers to care include inconsistent treatment or treatment lapses, discomfort with existing DoD or VA resources, concern about negative effects on career, and concern about being viewed as weak.

Wounded Warriors Need to Be Empowered in Body

  • Upward of 80 percent of WWP alumni are overweight or obese.
  • Alumni with obesity are more likely than other alumni to have reported that their health is fair or poor, they have greater limitations to their daily activities and work due to their physical health, and they exercise less than twice per week.
  • Commonly reported barriers to exercise and physical activity include discomfort with social situations, concerns about safety and reinjury, and not having time.

Wounded Warriors Need to Be Empowered Economically

  • Many alumni have access to government benefits to promote economic and educational empowerment but do not use these benefits.
  • Only about 9 percent of alumni with a VA disability rating of 10 percent or greater reported using the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E).
  • Only 17 percent of alumni reported using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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