Addressing Veterans’ Needs through Sequencing Care

Veterans transitioning to civilian life encounter a complex web of challenges, and the fragmented system of care often leaves them underserved and overwhelmed in the process of attempting to receive support. New research from NNSI finds that a holistic approach to addressing veterans’ needs is imperative. But most veteran serving organizations operate in silos, without the needed coordination to address everyday co-occurring needs. 

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 details the findings related to sequencing care, and a second article addresses how to address co-occurring needs.

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There needs to be a set formula for veteran-centered agencies or veterans to follow to meet needs in successive order. Many issues may be left unaddressed without considering a combination of factors contributing to a veteran’s well-being.

The NNSI report identifies three levels of needs: basic, stressors, and non-essential—the order in which these needs should be addressed. The order in which these needs should be prioritized can be modeled by the stair-step approach, where basic needs are addressed first, then stressors and nonessential needs. Adopting a stair-step approach can ensure that support for veterans is both comprehensive and strategic.

1. Prioritize Basic Needs

The process should begin by addressing basic needs, such as food and shelter, ensuring veterans are stable enough to accept further support. Access to consistent healthcare and proper nutrition can benefit veterans’ overall well-being and health outcomes. Collaborative efforts such as fostering partnerships with healthcare providers, food banks, and community organizations are vital to meet these needs. Establishing this immediate foundational level of care secures the groundwork for improving their overall well-being and prepares them to navigate future challenges.

2. Address Stressors Next

Once basic needs are met, the focus should shift to alleviating significant stressors. Stressors are serious needs that must be addressed right after basic needs because they will take energy away from the client’s ability to focus on other things. Legal issues and money management are two examples of everyday stressors. By providing assistance and reducing the burden caused by these targeted areas, veterans can steadily regain a solidified measure of control over their lives and dedicate more attention to complete recovery.

2. Conclude with Nonessential Needs

After managing these concerns, attention can be directed towards nonessential services, including entrepreneurship or recreational needs. These needs may not be urgent, but they can enhance the quality of life for veterans. Whether participating in social activities, volunteering in community engagement events, or pursuing personal hobbies, these nonessential services foster a sense of purpose and fulfillment by allowing veterans to reconnect with their passions as they transition to civilian life. 

Implementing this tiered system in a coordinated sequence can guide veterans through recovery and reintegration into society without overwhelming them or overlooking a need after addressing another. Instead, it ensures that each step builds upon increasing progress toward long-term success and fulfillment. 


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