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Stand-To 2021: Advancing Veteran Employment, Education, & Health and Well-being

This report re-evaluates and updates post-9/11 veterans’ current needs, what we have learned about their post-service lives, and what stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can do to better assist them in the future.

February 17, 2021

Nearly two decades have passed since Sept. 11, 2001. It is important to mark time and reflect on those events, but we must also take stock. How have those who served since 9/11 fared in this time? As many have made the transition to civilian life, what have we learned about their needs and how to best serve them? What gaps remain and where should we focus our efforts?

Seven years ago, the George W. Bush Institute and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University issued Know Our Vets, a report that examined the challenges and opportunities specific to the post-9/11 veteran cohort. That report identified and highlighted ways that all sectors could more ably assist post-9/11 veterans and their families as they transitioned from military to civilian life, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and health and well-being.

Currently, as we approach our 20th year of conflict within an enduring global security challenge, domestic and international issues are considerable and ever-changing. Economic conditions are uncertain and subject to the effects of COVID-19. The federal budget is under pressure, and public attention is potentially shifting away from overseas threats to domestic, social, and public health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report re-evaluates and updates post-9/11 veterans’ current needs, what we have learned about their post-service lives, and what stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can do to better assist them in the future.

Today, as in 2014, we found an enduring gap in the lack of research to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the programs and services offered to post-9/11 veterans. Not only does comprehensive longitudinal data capture and analysis remain rare, lack of effective aggregation of disparate data affects the state of knowledge needed to advance outcomes.1 Therefore, clean comparisons over time are difficult to make.

Thus, we focused this paper on the growth and progress made on behalf of post-9/11 veterans in the areas we prioritized in 2014– employment, education, and health and well-being – as well as on identifying crosscutting themes that can improve outcomes in all three domains.

To do so, we conducted a search of relevant literature primarily published between 2013 and 2020. The search included empirical literature, white papers, relevant legislation, and federal data from sources such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, we conducted our own survey of post-9/11 veterans to understand their current needs related to employment, education, and health and well-being. The survey also asked questions related to veterans’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.