The State of the American Veteran: The Chicagoland Veterans Study, conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) and in partnership with Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work, is an effort to provide data-driven recommendations for serving the large population of veterans residing in Chicago and the surrounding area. Service members encounter a series of needs as they transition out of the military. These include securing employment and housing, addressing physical or mental health issues and adjusting to civilian culture. The ease through which this transition is made has a profound impact on post-service well-being. In an effort to examine how Chicagoland veterans have managed this transition as well as the current state of their overall needs, the Chicagoland Veterans Study surveyed 1,294 veterans living in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties. In addition, focus group interviews were conducted to supplement the findings from the survey.
The findings from the current study closely mirror those observed from similar studies conducted in Southern California in Los Angeles and Orange counties (Castro, Kintzle, & Hassan, 2014). That many findings and recommendations are similar across cities and states is critically important as it indicates a national veteran transition effort is needed and that veteran transition is not just an issue for a single city or state. Further, commonalities across cities and states indicate a broader systemic issue, which will require systemwide changes.
Many service members leaving the military and relocating to Chicagoland are not prepared for the transition, and as a result struggle during the transition processes. This lack of preparation when leaving the military was also seen among veterans in Los Angeles County. While most Chicagoland veterans leave the service without a job (65% for post-9/11 veterans), slightly lower to what was seen in the Los Angeles County Veterans Study (nearly 80% for post-9/11 veterans) and there were fewer Chicagoland veterans seeking employment compared to veterans in Los Angeles County, 13.1% versus 28%, respectively, Chicagoland veterans reported earning significantly less pay than veterans from Los Angeles County. Thus, it is important to go beyond whether a veteran is or is not employed, but to consider whether the veteran is employed in a well-paying job.
Chicagoland veterans also reported significant housing distress and food insecurity. That 19% of post-9/11 veterans reported being homeless in the past year was surprising. In addition to the housing distress of post-9/11 veterans, food insecurity was also reported by one out of every 10 post-9/11 veterans. Together, housing and food distress might serve as an indicator for the relatively low earnings reported among Chicagoland post-9/11 veterans.
Janice Matthews Rasheed
Carl A. Castro
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