Homeless Veterans of the Mil-Volunteer Force: A Social Selection Perspective


This article explores whether, in addition to their higher risk of becoming homeless, veterans also have longer spells of homelessness than non-veterans.


Recent research has shown that men who served in the military during the early years of the all-volunteer force (AVF) have a higher risk of homelessness than do veterans of other eras and nonveterans of comparable ages. The current article draws on data from the 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients in order to examine differences between currently homeless veterans and nonveterans in the number of months they had been homeless at the time they were interviewed. A social selection perspective formed the basis for hypotheses about factors affecting variation in length of current homelessness. The results indicate that current episodes of homelessness were longest among veterans of the all-volunteer force, those with behavioral risk factors with possible early onset, and those who were lacking in social bonds to civilian society that are normally conferred by employment, marriage, and support from family of origin. Although recent age cohorts of enlistees in the all-volunteer force do not show the same pattern of vulnerabilities, the Department of Defense needs to continue to pay close attention to the screening of military applicants for mental health and substance use problems, and to invest in programs that give psychosocial support to those veterans whose connections to civilian society are most tenuous.

Full Reference

Homeless Veterans of the Mil-Volunteer Force: A Social Selection Perspective. Richard Tessler, Robert Rosenheck, Gail Gamache. Armed Forces & Society. Vol 29, Issue 4, pp. 509 - 524.