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HSR&D Study Highlights Association between Separation from Military due to Misconduct and Subsequent Homelessness

August 26, 2015

This HSR&D study examined the association between homelessness and misconduct-related separations among active-duty military service members. Using VA data, investigators identified 448,290 Veterans who were separated from the military (end date of last deployment) between October 1, 2001 and December 31, 2011; had been deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan; and had subsequently used VA healthcare. Veterans' housing status was followed through April 30, 2012. Study results show that the incidence of homelessness at their first encounter with VA healthcare was significantly greater for Veterans who experienced separation due to misconduct compared to Veterans with a normal separation (1% vs. 0.2%), as well as within one year (5% vs. 0.6%) and at five years (10% vs. 1%). Moreover, although only 6% (n=24,992) of the Veterans in this study separated for misconduct, they represented 26% of homeless Veterans at their first VA healthcare encounter, 28% within 1 year of separation, and 21% within 5 years. The incidence of homeless among Veterans was 0.3% at the time of their first VA healthcare encounter (n=1,259), 1% within one year (n=4,067), and 2% within 5 years (n=3,441).

These findings support reports of recently returned Veterans with records of misconduct having difficulties re-entering civilian life. This takes on added significance because the incidence of misconduct-related separations is increasing at a time when ending homelessness among Veterans is a federal government priority. This may represent an opportunity to investigate early identification and active case management as strategies to prevent homelessness in this and other vulnerable Veteran populations.

Gundlapalli A, Fargo J, Metraux S, Carter M, Samore M, Kane V, and Culhane D. Military Misconduct and Homelessness among U.S. Veterans Separated from Active Duty, 2001-2012. JAMA, Research Letter. August 25, 2015;314(8):832-834.