SOURCE: Orange County Community Foundation

Orange County Community Foundation

February 19, 2015 12:00 ET

Orange County Community Foundation Releases Report Finding Major Barriers for Orange County Veterans Returning to Civilian Life

USC Report Shows 61 Percent of Post-9/11 Veterans Experience Challenges Adjusting; Employment, Health and Housing Top List of Needs

NEWPORT BEACH, CA--(Marketwired - Feb 19, 2015) -  The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) released groundbreaking data today from a first-ever study finding that military veterans coming home to Orange County are significantly underprepared for civilian life. The study exposed significant challenges faced by returning veterans in securing adequate employment, finding stable housing and meeting physical and mental health needs. OCCF unveiled the report to 200 donors and business and community leaders, preceded by an address from Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 28th Chief of Naval Operations.

"The State of the American Veteran: The Orange County Veterans Study" was conducted by the USC School of Social Work Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR), which surveyed 1,227 veterans to comprise the first comprehensive needs assessment focused exclusively on Orange County veterans. The report mirrors a similar study that assessed the needs of veterans in Los Angeles in 2014 and used the same approach and methodology.

Key findings include the fact that 61 percent of post-9/11 veterans report difficulty adjusting to civilian life, compared to just 30 percent of pre-9/11 veterans. Additionally, 44 percent of post-9/11 veterans screened positive for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) compared to 24 percent of pre-9/11 veterans, and a similar trend is seen for depression.

"The Orange County Community Foundation, with additional support from the Nicholas Endowment and UniHealth Foundation, commissioned the study in order to bring much-needed attention to the challenges facing Orange County veterans. We plan to lead a coordinated effort in partnership with local donors and community leaders in response to the findings," said Shelley Hoss, OCCF president.

Data Exposes Differences in the Transition Home for Pre- and Post-9/11 Veterans

The topline findings of the study confirm that the transition out of the military and back to civilian life is rocky, including:

  • Sixty-one percent of post-9/11 veterans report adjustment challenges compared to 30 percent of pre-9/11 veterans

  • Nearly 45 percent of pre-9/11 veterans and 61 percent of post-9/11 veterans reported they need time to determine what they wanted to do with their civilian lives

Returning Veterans Struggle with Significant Unmet Needs

The study examined three chronic issues in detail: employment, health and housing, finding significant differences between the experiences of post-9/11 veterans and those who served before them.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Employment: Respondents reported significant barriers to obtaining civilian employment, including a perceived lack of understanding on the part of employers who aspire to hire veterans but struggle to translate veterans' military experience to skills and capabilities in the civilian workplace.

    • 74 percent of post-9/11 veterans didn't have a job when they left the military

    • 71 percent of veterans reported not receiving help to find a job

    • Nearly 30 percent of post-9/11 veterans are unemployed and looking for work

    • More than 40 percent of post-9/11 veterans feel that employers may see them as "broken" or even potentially dangerous.

  • Health: Although a majority of veterans reported their health status as good or excellent, their confidence belies a recurring issue -- for many veterans, the extent or severity of their physical and mental health needs was not addressed until after leaving the military. They often return home without a diagnosis and treatment plan in place for illnesses that range from battlefield wounds that may plague them for the rest of their lives to PTSD. Post-9/11 veterans were more hampered by severe health symptoms that challenged their re-entry to productive civilian life.

    • Nearly half of all veterans surveyed screened positive for probable PTSD and/or depression with pre-9/11 veterans more likely to screen positive for depression and post-9/11 veterans more likely to screen positive for PTSD.

    • One out of five post-9/11 veterans admitted thinking about dying by suicide or making plans to die by suicide.

  • Housing: Upon military separation, many returning service members did not have a permanent place to live; they stated that, if not for friends or family, they would have been homeless.

    • 35 percent of post-9/11 veterans had not secured housing before arriving back in Orange County.

    • Nearly 20 percent of post-9/11 veterans in OC had been homeless in the last 30 days.

Barriers to Care and Access Challenges

Veterans who served after 9/11 were more likely to report barriers to returning home easily, with 45 percent not knowing where to get help. A startling number reported challenges accessing services in the following areas:

  • Veterans Administration (50 percent)

  • Health care (47 percent)

  • Education (47 percent); pre-9/11 veterans ranked this as their greatest need.

  • Employment (43 percent)

Orange County Veterans Initiative

The Orange County Community Foundation founded the Orange County Veterans Initiative (OCVI) in 2011 as an initial response to the significant challenges facing local veterans. Armed with the new findings from The Orange County Veterans Study, the Foundation will expand this initiative in partnership with local donors and business and community leaders with a focus on three critical areas of need: transitioning to civilian life, employment readiness and job skills, and health with an emphasis on mental health needs.

"This study highlights data on which Orange County community leaders can take action," said Anthony Hassan, director of USC's CIR. "We encourage those who provide a safety net for returning service members to use this data to define holistic prevention and early-intervention solutions, so Orange County's veterans can make a positive transition home."

To read the entire report, go to oc-cf.org/veterans.  

Join the conversation with #OCVeterans.

About Orange County Community Foundation

Founded in 1989, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) works with donors, strengthens the local nonprofit sector and works to find solutions to community needs. Since its inception, OCCF has awarded $300 million in grants and scholarships and ranks among the top 10 percent in asset size among more than 750 U.S. community foundations. For more information, please go to www.oc-cf.org or call (949) 553-4202. Be a part of our conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About the USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families

Housed at the USC School of Social Work, the Center for Innovation and Research (http://cir.usc.edu) on Veterans & Military Families aims to strengthen the transition of veterans and their families into the community through education and training, research and strategic partnerships. The center is focused on rapidly increasing the number of clinical social workers and behavioral health providers trained to treat the challenges service members, veterans and their families face, as well as mental health research that can be directly and quickly translated into clinical practice.

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