The Toughest Mission: The Veterans Metrics Initiative 


Nearly 250,000 service members are annually expected to leave the military in the next five years. Some find it difficult to transition from a highly-structured environment that provides basic living requirements—housing, employment, healthcare and more—to a situation in which they must independently navigate new challenges in a civilian world. This transition can be even more daunting for service members suffering from a mental health condition, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

To help address this information gap, a five-year study was launched in 2015. Known as The Veterans Metric Initiative: Linking Program Components to Post-Military Well-Being (TVMI Study), the study aimed to conduct collaborative, translational metrics-related research designed to improve the well-being of veterans and their families.

An innovative public-private research partnership, the study was funded by more than a dozen organizations: Prudential, Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans Health Administration Health Services Research and Development Service, Walmart Foundation, May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Health Net Federal Services, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Northrop Grumman, Marge and Phil Odeen, The Heinz Endowments, National Endowment for the Humanities, and HJF.

In addition, a team of five researchers from the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at the Pennsylvania State University (Clearinghouse), three VA healthcare systems and a private survey research company collaborated on the study. Cynthia Gilman, HJF Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, served as Program Director.

The research team followed 9,566 service members in their transition from military to civilian life. Surveys were conducted at six-month intervals over a three-year period to monitor the well-being of the study participants. To measure the ability of a veteran to function in civilian life, the study created a multidimensional assessment tool (the Well-Being Inventory) designed to measure four areas: vocation (education and career), finances, health (physical and mental), and social relationships. An adapted common components analysis focused on the various programs designed to support veterans during their reintegration into civilian life.

The study’s findings are currently being shared across the scientific community as well as with veterans support groups. Numerous papers have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. More than a dozen presentations, including to the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Veteran Affairs, and at national research conferences, have helped inform program providers and funders about programs associated with improving well-being outcomes for veterans.

In the coming years, the results of the TVMI Study will enable the DoD, VA, philanthropy organizations, and others to more effectively target their transition assistance efforts. Nearly 4,000 participants in the study have consented to be contacted about future research studies, which will provide an opportunity for further research.

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