Evidence is emerging from Canada (Life After Service Study) the USA (the Veterans Measurement Initiative) and Australia (Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme) about the wellbeing of service personnel during the peri-transition period. What do we know though about wellbeing and transition in the UK context? To date, most of the work has focused on the employment outcomes for former-service personnel. Although positive employment outcomes are a good indicator for overall wellbeing, they can only begin to tell a partial story. A binary indicator of in/out of work tells us nothing about the quality of an individuals experience. What more needs to be done to better understand the wellbeing of the military community? Should an objective measure of wellbeing be introduced in the military context to help identify individuals with areas of vulnerability and act quickly to help military retention? Your views would be most welcome!
Prior to the Life After Service Studies, which began in 2010 (every three years since) and covers Veterans released since 1998, there was limited data on the outcomes of veterans after transition to civilian life in Canada. Most of the data was related to clients of Veterans Affairs (less than 20% of the estimated Veteran population) or small samples of Veterans (ex medical releases, specific deployments). However, there was an understanding that we needed to measure more than employment outcomes. Veterans were identified on the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey and the indicators examined include health status and determinants of health used to measure the well-being of the Canadian population. LASS adopted this same framework of indicators allowing for comparison to the Canadian Community Health Survey. Today policy and research in Canada is guided by a conceptual framework that includes 7 domains of well-being and a surveillance framework that includes 21 indicators of which 17 are from LASS. The priority going forward is to build a full registry of Veterans which would start with identifying Veterans on the census and measure well-being for the total population of Veterans (for example Veterans are now identified on the Canadian Survey of Disability 2017 and plans are in the works to identify Veterans on the Canadian Community Health Survey 2019). Hope this helps the discussion. I will post some of our documents related to well-being.
Both Matt and Mary Beth make excellent points in opening a discussion on Veteran well-being. Matt is so right when he says that veteran well-being should be more than just the binary of in or out of employment. Of interest perhaps is that the US the Department of Labor tracks veterans’ performance outcomes and has done for many years. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) issues a quarterly Performance Outcomes – Veterans report for ‘Eligible Persons’ and those within the Transitioning Service. These reports contain a mass of detail including employment retention rates and earnings increases. In the US, certainly for Dept. of Labor purposes, veterans are also categorized much more intensely than the UKs ‘must have served and received pay for one day.’ There are categories for Campaign Veterans, Disabled Veterans, Special Disabled Veterans and those who have left the military in the last 3 years – Recently Separated Veterans. This reporting hints at more than a passing interest in the fate of those who have served their country and generally in the US, as it pretty much well known, veterans are greatly respected in civilian society. Back to the point; an objective measure of veteran well-being is certainly worthy of further thought. However having read you post again Matt, what you are asking is:
“What more needs to be done to better understand the wellbeing of the military community? Should an objective measure of wellbeing be introduced in the military context to help identify individuals with areas of vulnerability and act quickly to help military retention? Your views would be most welcome!”
This seems more concerned with those who are serving than with veterans. Are you seeing a focus on the well-being of those still serving (with the bonus of retention) as a means of identifying problems areas which may later manifest themselves when service personnel do leave the armed forces? The loss of identity, status, job, comradeship and so on, are areas of concern already well known and rehearsed in the literature. Are you suggesting that there is more to be beneficially found in examining the well-beingness of serving people?
Factsheet ‘Wishes and needs of veterans’ in the Netherlands
[Reference: Veteraneninstituut, 2014. Wishes and needs of veterans. Fact Sheet.]
This excellent factsheet is dated Dec 2014 but it has clearly been well researched and is equally as relevant, to the well being of Veterans, today in 2019 as it was 5 years ago.
It begins by asking: “What are the wishes and needs of veterans?” and then provides a list of findings by way of answer:
1. Contact with other veterans;
2. Recognition and appreciation;
3. Care and support;
The same list of wishes and needs could easily be applied to ex British Armed Forces personnel who identify as veterans. What I found particularly interesting was the way Nederland veterans are referred to as a single homogenous population. In the UK, in my experience and from my own research, not all ex-sailors, soldiers and airmen (and women) recognize themselves within the term veteran preferring, if indeed there is any preference, ex-army, ex-matelot and so on. This factsheet provides a useful template for anyone designing a research framework with a focus on what veterans think and feel and believe. The findings that veterans wish for contact with other veterans and would also like recognition and appreciation echo factors which have emerged from my own recent research into Armed forces and Veterans Breakfast Clubs (awaiting publication) where otherwise fit, well, happy and settled ‘veterans’ spoke of not being understood and not being appreciated by civilians whilst relishing the facility afforded by Breakfast clubs to swing the lantern with others who had very similar experiences.