August 26, 2019

Annual report highlights ways to support service members, veterans and families

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A new report shows unemployment among U.S. military veterans has decreased and is at its lowest level since the Department of Labor began tracking veteran employment in 2008. The report serves as a clearinghouse of data on military and veteran families.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data shows the unemployment is not spread evenly. Ten states have rates of 4.6% or higher, while Iowa has the lowest in the nation with 1.4%.

The report, “Measuring Our Communities: The State of Military and Veteran Families in the United States,” was led by the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University with help from social scientists and other service organizations. Findings were released Monday (Aug. 26) during an event at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center in Washington, D.C.

Measuring Communities compiles data from numerous government agencies and non-profits and makes it available to states, communities and organizations that work to address issues facing military and veteran families.

The report was built around a key question: Is America keeping its commitment of caring and providing assistance to military and veteran families? It looks at how states and communities are addressing issues facing military and veteran families in the areas of housing, employment, education, behavioral health and access to medical care.

Another key finding was that the number of homeless veterans continues to decline.  Data from the a 2018 U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development report shows a decrease of 2,142 veterans who are homeless.

The number of homeless women veterans also decreased from 3,571 females in 2017 to 3,219 females in 2018 through the report. A U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness 2018 report shows there is concern among officials that they are undercounted and need additional resources to address children and family who could be facing housing insecurity as well

This year’s report data focuses on two new subgroups: women veterans and military spouses. The report also looks at demographics, community, employment, education, housing, behavioral health, medical, financial and legal categories that affect military and veteran families. In those sections, calls to action are included with other highlights for those categories.

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, MFRI director and professor of human development and family studies, said that many communities have made progress in serving military and veteran families in a wide variety of areas, including housing/homelessness, employment levels, establishment of veteran treatment courts and more.

“While this is encouraging, there are still areas that need improvement, including veteran income levels, as well as medical and mental health access,” she said. “As the population of women veterans expands, issues such as housing and homelessness, access to services for children and gender-appropriate health care through organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs take on a different level.”

Kathy Broniarczyk, senior director for outreach and operations, said additional upgrades to the Measuring Communities data tools will make it easier for those interested in access to the data.

“We receive feedback regularly from community organizations and individuals,” Broniarczyk said. “We are excited to make the web tools easier for people to navigate so they can serve the military and veteran populations in their communities better by addressing gaps in services and meeting those populations’ needs.”

The Measuring Communities tool, already used by more than 300 individuals and organizations, provides data across a range of issues, offering rich and nuanced data points about military-connected individuals in the communities in which they live. Those interested in using the tool can register for free access by visiting measuringcommunities.org

About MFRI

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University conducts research on issues that affect military and veteran families and works to shape policies, programs and practices that improve their well-being. Founded in 2000, MFRI envisions a diverse support community that understands the most pressing needs of military and veteran families. To achieve this, MFRI collaborates to create meaningful solutions for them. This internationally recognized organization is located in the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Human Development and Family Studies. 

About the Purdue Center for Regional Development

The Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) seeks to pioneer new ideas and strategies that contribute to regional collaboration, innovation and prosperity. Founded in 2005, the Center partners with public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to pursue applied research and engagement activities. Its key goals include: (1) developing and strengthening access to high quality data and visualization tools to guide the development of local and regional plans;
(2) advancing the capacity of regions to pursue programs and projects that embrace the principles of collaboration, broad-based engagement and sound planning; (3) developing and promoting the of programs and projects that build on the existing economic assets and emerging business development opportunities of regions; and (4) exploring the mix of factors shaping the overall well-being of people and the local/regional places in which they live. 

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Source: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, shelley@purdue.edu, @MFRIPurdue. To interview MacDermid Wadsworth while in Washington DC, please contact Linda Hughes Kirchubel at 765-430-9594.

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