Veterans’ Health

Grantee Name

Center for a New American Security

Funding Area

Veterans’ Health

Publication Date

March 2021

Grant Amount

$150,654

Grant Date:

March 2019- July 2020

Over the past 30 years, women and racial/ethnic minorities have entered the military in ever-increasing numbers, further diversifying the country’s veteran population.

Racial/ethnic minorities made up 21% of New York State’s veteran population in 2015, a proportion that is expected to rise to 37% by 2040. Women are expected to comprise more than 10% of the State’s veteran population by 2025. In some ways, minority veterans have greater access to health care than their nonveteran minority counterparts. Yet the racial and ethnic health disparities that persist in the United States are largely mirrored in the veteran community. To date, there has not been a comprehensive analysis of the health needs of post-9/11 minority veterans in New York State, nor the extent to which current U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or private-sector infrastructures are meeting these needs.

In 2019, NYSHealth awarded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) a grant to determine the health needs of minority veterans in New York State and provide recommendations for better meeting those needs.

 

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

 

  • Conducted a needs assessment on post-9/11 veterans in New York State who are women, racial or ethnic minorities, and/or members of the LGBTQ community to identify potential risk factors or concerns, focusing on mental health and suicide prevention, including:
    • Gathered demographic information on these minority veterans and analyzed how they compare with nonminority veterans on various measures of health.
    • Conducted a literature review, site visits to VA and non-VA health care facilities, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups with minority veterans.
    • Hosted a roundtable discussion with national-level representatives of multiple veteran service organizations (VSOs) to identify what they saw as the most significant areas of concern for their members, as well as to understand the challenges minority veterans face and the work being done to support them.
    • Conducted interviews with 25 key stakeholders and subject-matter experts.
    • Hosted three focus group session with minority veterans in Brooklyn, Queens, and Buffalo, N.Y.
    • Conducted multiple unannounced site visits, including to a VA regional office, two VSO posts, three VA medical centers, and two VA clinics, to determine how individual veterans perceived their needs as minorities and how organizations are—or are not—responding to targeted challenges.
  • Produced a report, “New York State Minority Veteran Needs Assessment,” highlighting the challenges and barriers minority veterans face pertaining to housing stability, financial stability, health, and social functioning. Key findings from this report include:
    • Veteran status is a protective factor across the board.
      • Veterans of minority groups outperform their civilian counterparts across a wide range of factors, though minority veterans are not on par with that of white male veterans. For example, black veterans experience unemployment at lower rates than black nonveterans but higher rates than white veterans.
    • On the whole, veterans are affected by many of the same challenges that their nonveteran peers face.
    • Military service can help overcome many, but not all, structural and institutional barriers that have a disproportionate impact on women and minorities.
      • For example, women and LGBTQ veterans often find the environment at traditional VSOs and VA unwelcoming because of harassment and discrimination
    • Insufficient data exist across veteran minority groups and measures to conduct comprehensive analyses, particularly for LGBTQ veterans and for those with multiple minority statuses, and more research is needed. Recommendations for researchers, VSOs, and VA include:
      • Conduct research from an intersectional lens to identify how having multiple minority statuses affect veterans.
      • Ensure veterans from various subpopulations are included when recruiting participants for studies.
      • Include analysis and data collection of subpopulations when publishing research on veterans, especially racial/ethnic and LGBTQ status.
      • Raise awareness among members, especially for major national-level VSOs, of the disparate challenges minority veterans may be facing and specific resources available to support them.
      • Support elimination of discriminatory policies specific to minority veterans.

CNAS disseminated these findings widely at an event in Washington, D.C., and at an NYSHealth event, both of which included minority veterans and key stakeholders in the community. CNAS’s project director also provided testimony to two House Veterans Affairs Committee subcommittee hearings on sexual trauma and health care for minority veterans.

Though sufficient data was ultimately collected to create a detailed report, CNAS faced obstacles in finding enough data on minority veterans and getting them to participate in focus groups. However, such is the nature of examining a population whose needs have not been explicitly documented before; CNAS and NYSHealth see this needs assessment as a first step toward further understanding the health needs of minority veterans. We hope that in the future, more explicit data about the health needs of minority veterans will be available from VA and other sources for more comprehensive analyses.