Veteran-serving organizations address various needs, including healthcare, mental health care, housing and homeless assistance, and financial and employment assistance. Many needs are co-occurring. For instance, if a veteran wishes to get a job, they might require additional needs in transportation, education, or financial literacy guidance. The influence of social determinants of health—such as violence, housing instability, financial/employment problems, lack of access to transportation, and psychosocial needs—on veterans’ lives is significant. Health-related social needs often cause health and mental health issues.
A new report from the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact at Northwestern University (NNSI), “Understanding U.S. Veterans Needs: A Conceptual Framework for Identifying the Level of Need and Co-occurring Needs,” reveals the complexity and interconnectedness of veterans’ needs. Through qualitative interviews with 21 intake specialists and providers, complemented by surveys involving 130 leaders from veteran-serving entities, NNSI offers specific strategies to help veteran-serving agencies better address veteran’s needs. This article focuses on co-occurring needs, but our previous blog from the same research focuses on sequencing veteran care.
The NNSI report finds common patterns in veterans’ co-occurring needs. Veteran-serving organizations and intake specialists detailed the other needs that must be addressed for services to be effective in the following areas: employment, mental health, financial assistance, housing, and physical health.
Holistic care for veterans involves recognizing and addressing the broad spectrum of their needs. Clear guidance is needed for agencies to manage co-occurring needs effectively. Here are three examples of how this approach could work.
Integrate mental and physical health.
Physical and mental health needs are deeply intertwined in a veteran’s life. To provide comprehensive care, healthcare providers must utilize integrated models acknowledging this link. Professionals can create holistic treatment plans by adopting a coordinated approach that considers physical and mental health, providing veterans with more effective and person-centered care. In addition to medical care, social support systems play a significant role. Family and peer support are critical to veterans’ overall well-being. Identifying and strengthening areas of social support, especially within the family, is vital to optimize treatment strategies and better support veterans on their road to recovery.
Provide financial and employment services.
A multifaceted approach to financial assistance and employment support is vital to veterans’ financial well-being. Incorporating job placement, career development, financial counseling, and emotional support can create a well-rounded support system for achieving financial independence and resilience. Furthermore, financial assistance programs can help veterans achieve greater financial independence by providing comprehensive support in navigating the job market and building sustainable careers.
Housing assistance is another area that requires a comprehensive approach. Veterans often have co-occurring needs such as utilities, food assistance, income support, transportation, and money management. Effective housing assistance is not just about providing shelter; it’s about offering comprehensive services through supportive housing models. These models guide veterans in finding housing and provide access to various health and human services, empowering them to thrive toward wellness and self-sufficiency. Enhancing the quality of life for veterans transitioning out of homelessness is also crucial. Household goods and services, such as furniture and appliances, significantly impact veterans’ comfort and well-being. Collaborations with local organizations and businesses can help housing assistance programs provide these essential items, fostering dignity and stability during veterans’ transitions.
Supporting veterans in their transition to civilian life is a shared responsibility. The report’s findings provide a roadmap for a more comprehensive and interconnected approach to addressing veterans’ needs. By embracing open communication, holistic care, and understanding the social determinants of health, veteran-serving agencies can ensure that veterans receive the support they deserve. The commitment to honoring their sacrifices and service to the nation begins with a comprehensive and unified approach to addressing the multi-dimensional nature of veterans’ needs.
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