Health Services Research & Development

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

Research News


How Separation from the Military May Affect Homelessness among Women Veterans

January 4, 2018


Several HSR&D investigators are cited in the Huffington Post article “Leaving the Military Wasn’t My Idea: How Separation Status may Affect Homelessness in Women Veterans.” Dr. Emily Brignone, with HSR&D’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), examined the health records of more than 300,000 post-9/11 Veterans who had received VA healthcare and observed that “Discharge from military service for reasons related to misconduct is associated with a multitude of serious negative post-deployment outcomes, including mental health and substance use disorders, homelessness, suicide, and incarceration.” In addition, Dr. Brignone’s work with HSR&D investigator Adi Gundlapalli, MD, PhD, part of the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, about the effects of discharge status showed that bad conduct or even less than honorable discharges were almost non-existent among women Veterans. So midway through their study, they added the following question: “When you left the military, was the separation voluntary (your choice) or involuntary (theirs)?” Of almost 1,000 women Veterans who responded to the question, 76% left the military of their own accord, and 24% left involuntarily. When women Veterans left the military before they planned to via involuntary separation (i.e., result of medical examination board), 68% struggled later with unstable housing or homelessness. By comparison, 45% of women Veterans experienced similar negative outcomes when they left the military as planned.

In addition, Drs. Melissa Dichter and Gala True (CHERP), who interviewed 35 women Veterans about their premature separations from the military, published a journal article that stated “The additional stressors placed on women in the military may cause them to leave the service prematurely, with real consequences to the development of their own human capital through schooling, training, and leadership experience – and also through potential forfeiture of benefits tied to career services.”

The Huffington Post article is a continuation of the ongoing series, “Coming Out of the Shadows: Women Veterans and Homelessness.”