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2023 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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5013 — “Moving the Needle” on Veteran Engaged Research on Community Reintegration

Lead/Presenter: Sean Baird
All Authors: Behn Watts J (Indiana University Purdue Univesity - Indianapolis, Office for Veterans and Military Personnel) Belisle J (Transition Care Management, Veteran Affairs Central Office) Natividad D (VA HSR&D Center for Health Information and Communication) True G (South Central MIRECC, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System) Rattray NA (VA HSR&D Center for Health Information and Communication)

Objectives:
Efforts to involve patients, family and community members in VA research activities brings about unique challenges. Until recently, stakeholder involvement in research was minimal and largely limited to small patient groups but more recently has been guided by conceptual model and supported by toolkits and resources. (Brys et al., 2018; Knight et al., 2022; Wendleton et al., 2019). This expert panel engaged with veterans, caregivers and other stakeholders for the purpose of developing intervention studies on veteran reintegration and disseminating policy recommendations.

Methods:
Our panel was devised to incorporate subject matter and lay expertise by drawing from six stakeholder groups that address the community reintegration of veterans with invisible injuries. The six subgroups included veterans, care partners, community-based organizers, policy experts, VA clinicians, and VA health researchers. This group met on a quarterly basis with monthly virtual check-ins and update meetings. Meetings were initially held in a hybrid in-person and virtual format, but later virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results:
Expert panel meeting and general interactions were facilitated by VA research staff who also is a military veteran. Participants completed baseline interview, a midpoint focus group, and follow-up interviews after two years of expert panel participation.

Implications:
The Expert Panel met quarterly for two years from for a total of nine meetings and a total of 32 monthly and other update meetings (Dec 2019-May 2022). Quarterly meetings featured rich collaboration across all subgroups and the study team, which observed engagement with study data collection and analysis as well as planning and direction for future research. Beyond the quarterly meetings, additional facilitation by veteran research staff navigated pandemic era collaboration to generate maximum participation from each subgroup, reduce participant attrition, and facilitate an environment of collaboration and networking that moved beyond data mining for the study to create mutual benefit and reward for participants. This collaboration resulted in multi-faceted and comprehensive perspectives on veteran reintegration that complements the veteran and caregiver perspective. Networks and professional development and benefit was cultivated among the participants, which participants stated being able take knowledge or products generated out of the Expert panel meetings and immediately apply to their respective work with veterans.

Impacts:
This Expert Panel reinforced the need for more veteran and care partner input in research, but also to include other voices who are associated with the veteran experience. This multi-sector panel offered novel contributions, opportunities for collaboration, and unique interpretation of the findings of the parent study. Relationships have been forged that will continue to be included in any possible opportunity to bring veteran and veteran associated voices to research in the future.