RAND on Veterans' Issues

As veterans return home and adjust to civilian life, they and their families face new challenges and many communities struggle to meet their unique needs.

Rigorous research is essential to addressing the challenges facing veterans and to finding long-term solutions. RAND research explores key issues concerning veterans such as health and well-being, education, employment, and family support.

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Health and Well-Being

Some veterans suffer combat-related injuries, including mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and traumatic brain injury. Quality health care is critical as veterans return to their communities. RAND explores the physical and mental health needs of veterans as well as the treatment systems available to address them, including care delivered by the VA and community providers, and informal care provided by families and friends.

  • A worker checks the identification of a veteran receiving aid at food bank in Dayton, Ohio, October 15, 2020, photo by Jeffrey Dean/Reuters


    Veterans Experience Food Insecurity

    Food insecurity is associated with poorer mental and physical health, as well as homelessness. Some veterans are at higher risk, including women, those who have been homeless, and those with serious mental illness. Few veterans receive support from federal programs designed to prevent food insecurity.

  • Members of an Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron monitor patients during an aero-medical evacuation mission from Balad Air Base, Iraq, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, February 25, 2007, photo by MSgt. Scott Reed/U.S. Air Force


    How Military Medical Care Has Evolved

    How America cares for its war casualties—those physically or mentally wounded in combat—is a high priority. From the Korean War to recent conflicts in the Middle East, there have been dramatic changes in the care that these casualties receive in the field and in hospitals, in the care given to disabled veterans and their dependents, and in who provides that care.

  • Benefits and Applications of a Standardized Definition of High-Quality Care (sm)


    Benefits and Applications of a Standardized Definition of High-Quality Care

    RAND senior policy researcher Carrie Farmer presents several ways in which a standardized definition of high-quality care could be used by health care organizations, veterans, and payers.

  • African-American man sharing during group therapy session, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images


    Improving Substance Use Care for Post-9/11 Veterans

    RAND research provides guidance and recommendations to support the delivery of quality care for veterans with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

  • Dan Smee deployed in Mosul, Iraq, photo courtesy of Dan Smee


    There's Help for Veterans with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

    Many post-9/11 veterans who have PTSD or depression also struggle with substance use. There are clinically proven treatments to help break the cycle of the co-occurring disorders, but the VA and other facilities need guidance on how to expand and enhance treatment opportunities for these veterans.

  • Close up of a woman looking out a window, photo by Lewis Tse Pui Lung/Adobe Stock


    Navigating Mental Health Care for Veterans

    Findings and resources from RAND's vast body of research provide insights on how to help more veterans receive the mental health care they need.

  • A licensed clinical social worker listens to her client during a therapy session at the Bay Pines Veterans Administration Healthcare Center in Bay Pines, Florida, October 29, 2015, photo by EJ Hersom/DoD News

    Research Brief

    How to Improve Mental Health Care for Veterans

    Veterans, especially those who deployed overseas, face elevated risks of mental health conditions. Those who have served since 9/11 are particularly vulnerable. About one in five experiences mental health problems. Are veterans getting the high-quality care that they need?

  • Friend comforts uniformed United States Army soldier sitting on park bench, photo by debbiehelbing/Getty Images


    How to Reduce Suicide Among U.S. Veterans and Service Members

    The rate at which veterans and service members die by suicide is a national security problem that requires a comprehensive approach. Improved leadership and investments in access to high-quality care, identifying at-risk individuals, and reducing access to lethal means can make a difference.

  • Veterans and other guests attend a signing ceremony for the VA Mission Act of 2018 in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 6, 2018, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters


    Ensuring Veterans' Access to Timely, High-Quality Health Care

    Though the size of the U.S. veteran population has been decreasing over time, an influx of a new era of veterans with significant service-related health problems has increased VA health care enrollment to over 9 million. Insights from RAND research can help inform policymakers about the timeliness and quality of VA care.

  • A doctor looking at an x-ray next to an American flag


    How Private Health Care Providers Could Better Serve Veterans

    Almost a third of U.S. veterans live 40 miles or more from the nearest VA medical center, so the VA is trying to make it easier for them to use private providers closer to home. But it will take significant efforts to better prepare civilian doctors to deliver high-quality care to veterans.

  • A 28th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician counts pills


    Integrating Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs Purchased Care

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) both use private-sector contracts—known as "purchased care"—that govern how beneficiaries see community-based health providers. How feasible is it to integrate the VA and DoD approaches to purchased care?

  • A veteran talks to a counselor

    Research Brief

    Are Private Health Care Providers in New York Ready to Treat Veterans?

    Only 2.3 percent of New York state health care providers are prepared to care for veterans. Training programs, as well as efforts to incentivize providers to screen veterans, could improve provider readiness.

  • Medical doctor evaluates veteran during appointment


    Repealing or Replacing ACA Would Result in More Uninsured Veterans and Stress on VA Health System

    Recent congressional proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of uninsured nonelderly veterans and further increase demand for VA health care. The effects would vary across states, but the largest impacts would be felt in states that expanded Medicaid.

  • Close up of a therapist speaking with a member of the armed forces


    Military Mental Health Care for PTSD and Depression

    The ability of the Military Health System to treat PTSD and depression is critical to maintaining a psychologically healthy force. Although most providers follow medication protocols, common barriers limit time with patients.

  • Airmen along with KC-135 Stratotanker jets return home to Pennsylvania July 2, 2010, from an overseas deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom


    Supporting the U.S. Air Force's Wounded Warriors

    A high proportion of airmen injured in combat experience mental health issues. And 15 percent of those surveyed were unemployed. Recovery and reintegration are likely to take a long time. This will require ongoing program evaluation and continuous efforts to improve program offerings.

  • Female soldier hugging a child

    Research Brief

    A Collaborative Approach to Behavioral Health Care for Veterans and Their Families

    RAND evaluated the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families, a new model of behavioral health care that provides colocated and coordinated care for veterans and their families.

  • Profile view of female soldier

    Journal Article

    Reducing the Risk of Suicide Among Women Veterans

    Addressing military sexual trauma, adding questions about self-harm to suicide risk assessments, and restricting access to lethal suicide means may help reduce the risk of suicide for women veterans.

  • A U.S. Air Force Airman places his hand on another Airman's back at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., November 21, 2014


    Quality of Mental Health Care Provided by the Military

    The military health system performs well in following up with patients after they are discharged from a mental health hospitalization. But some areas of care for PTSD and depression need improvement. For example, although most patients received at least one psychotherapy visit, the number and timing of subsequent visits may be inadequate.

  • Rows of soldiers in helmets


    Treatment of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in the Military Health System

    Among service members diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, the majority of cases are concussions. Understanding the characteristics of service members with these injuries and their treatment patterns can inform the delivery of high-quality care.

  • Veteran meeting with therapist

    Research Brief

    Understanding the Mental Health Needs of Metro Detroit's Veterans

    Michigan veterans, including those in the Detroit area, are among the least likely in the nation to take advantage of their federal Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. This study makes recommendations for improving awareness of supports among Detroit-area veterans and connecting them with services.

  • A military father and son hugging


    Public-Private Partnerships for Providing Behavioral Health Care to Veterans and Their Families

    Veterans and their families face many barriers to mental health care. Partnerships between a public agency, such as the VA, and a private organization, such as a private hospital, have been discussed as a potential solution. What are the key components for successful public-private partnerships?

  • Sailors aboard the USS San Jacinto pray for suicide victims during a suicide prevention and awareness event called Walk Out of Darkness


    Addressing the Invisible Wounds of War

    Before 2007, little was known about how the availability of behavioral health services compared with the need among returning troops—or about the consequences to the nation if these needs were not met.

Browse All RAND Resources on Veteran Health Care


The post-9/11 GI Bill was the largest expansion of veterans' education benefits since passage of the original GI Bill in 1944 and gives veterans the opportunity to move ahead in civilian careers. RAND has examined its initial implementation challenges and the complexity of administering the benefits, and recommended ways higher education institutions can help veterans use their benefits and adapt to life on campus.

Browse All RAND Resources Related to Veterans' Education


U.S. veterans return from service with proven practical and leadership skills, so why is unemployment among them so high? RAND has analyzed return-to-work policies and programs for those with service-related injuries, as well as employer tax credits designed to encourage veteran hiring. A new study finds that even employers who are committed to hiring veterans struggle to understand how military experience translates to the skills needed for civilian jobs.

Family Support

Families of injured service members and veterans endure significant strain as they provide critical support when service members come home. There are 5.5 million spouses, siblings, parents, children, and friends devoted to the care of those injured fighting America's wars, and often their own needs are neglected. A recent RAND study quantified military caregivers' needs and recommended ways for policymakers and others to meet them.

  • An Army couple reacts to local residents' posts regarding housing issues on a community Facebook group at their army base home in Fort Hood, Texas, May 16, 2019, photo by Amanda Voisard/Reuters


    How Do Army Families Handle the Challenges of Military Life?

    Soldiers might see the stressors of military life as part of their duty. But what about their families? A survey of more than 8,500 Army spouses identified the problems they faced in the past year, the resources they sought, and whether those resources met their needs.

  • U.S. Army soldiers in an exercise on Udari Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait, that better prepares them to certify for future deployments, November 2017


    How Does Deployment Experience Compare Across the Services?

    Deployments are a key aspect of U.S. military service. Since 9/11, 2.77 million service members have served on 5.4 million deployments. Accrued time deployed is a relevant metric for measuring military experience, but also for measuring service member and family well-being.

  • Military father with his family on sofa at home


    Evaluating Military Non-Medical Counseling Programs

    An evaluation of the U.S. military's non-medical counseling programs suggests they help military families: most participants reported improvement over a three-month period.

  • Female caregiver carrying groceries and walking along a dirt path with an elderly man

    Research Brief

    A Blueprint for Improving Support for America's Hidden Heroes

    RAND researchers, commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, developed a research blueprint to guide future investments that would improve the well-being of military and veteran caregivers.

  • A soldier talking on a cell phone


    The Impact of Deployments on Military Marriages

    The evidence linking combat deployments directly to poorer marital functioning has been sparse and contradictory. Although marital satisfaction among military couples declined from 2003 to 2009, the divorce rate among them remained steady.

  • U.S. Army soldier holds his daughter after a deployment ceremony at the Alaska National Guard Armory


    Insights from the Deployment Life Study

    Experiences during a service member's deployment can have a profound impact on how families fare during the reintegration period. But for many experienced military families, functioning eventually returns to pre-deployment levels.

  • Church pews


    Faith-Based Organizations and Veteran Reintegration: Enriching the Web of Support

    Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are an important resource for veterans as they readjust to civilian life. Interviews with FBOs reveal how they address diverse areas of veteran health and well-being, and suggest ways to better integrate them into the web of support.

  • A servicemember and his wife hold hands


    Getting to Know Military Caregivers and Their Needs

    There are millions of military caregivers—wives, husbands, siblings, parents, and friends—caring for U.S. service members and veterans who are wounded, ill, or injured. These caregivers help their loved ones live better-quality lives, but their own needs may go unmet.

Browse All RAND Resources Related to Military Families