Hello. I’m Pat Clifford of Clifford Consulting and the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance. The Tristate Veterans Community Alliance (TVCA) has been working with partners to develop a way to track veteran progress toward their successful transition. It has been challenging to identify relevant indicators that are both applicable across sectors (e.g., employment, education, health) and simple enough to be incorporated into brief interactions with veterans and/or program intake/update processes.
In the Fall of 2015 and through ongoing collaborative committee work and discussions with community partners, TVCA identified 30 questions across 13 dimensions that were deemed most relevant for developing a sound client-level transition experience. In January 2016, TVCA conducted a brief survey that narrowed the list even further. In June of 2016, TVCA and its partners pre-tested the intake questionnaire and analyzed the information it yielded.
Post testing follow-ups with partners enabled TVCA to revise its question list to include more veteran-centered language, clarify terms, and bring more emphasis and detail to questions that are most important to a veteran’s transition process.
TVCA then partnered with researchers at the University of Cincinnati to distill the original list of 30 questions into 15 indicators. Indicators were developed to focus on addressing three primary challenges that transitioning veterans face: underemployment, social connection, and social support.
Underemployment is characterized by a poor match between current and ideal job in terms of whether the veteran’s skill and personality fit with the job and whether the job fits the veteran’s expectations. A related indicator is the educational attainment level of the veteran, as advancement in this area can lead to expanded career opportunities.
Social support can take many forms, such as emotional, belonging, companionship, tangible, and informational. All of these are important for successful veteran transitions and ultimate wellness. TVCA focuses on providing informational and tangible support that enables veterans to solve problems as well as to build awareness and connection with sources of support, including from other veterans. Social support could also mean connection to specific VA support services for which veterans and their families are eligible, including reviewing and upgrading the veteran’s disability rating when justified.
Developing a relevant evaluation framework from the ground up can be quite challenging, especially for an area that is complex and wide reaching as military to civilian transitions. However, in the absence of clear guidance it is better to attempt something, always looking to those that are most directly impacted as your best guides. Looking toward the future, I believe our grassroots efforts will help us be more effective advocates with Federal stakeholders such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs as a national veteran transition framework is developed.
To learn more about the TVCA’s efforts to use data to learn and develop their efforts, check out our regional veteran data portal at https://www.tristatevca.org/resources/regional-veteran-data/
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