Earlier this month, J. Michael Haynie, Ph.D., vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation and executive director of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families, was appointed by United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough to serve on…
COVID One Year Later: Insights from the Military-Connected Community
The changes our nation has experienced, both at home and abroad, are considerable and hastening. Economic conditions are uncertain, the federal budget is under significant pressure, and public attention is shifting away from overseas threats to domestic, social, and public health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while we continue in this uncertain environment with a promising and optimistic future, it is imperative for public and private sector stakeholders who serve veterans to assess, adapt where necessary, and focus future policy, investments, and limited resources toward their best use to ensure this generation of veterans thrives for the next decade and beyond.
Here are the main areas of focus:
COVID-19 has had a major impact on small businesses. Many small, independently owned businesses have had to reevaluate how they operate during this trying time. Some have been successful; some have started as an opportunity to help people in their communities; and some veteran-owned businesses are reeling and struggling to remain afloat.
In one study of veteran entrepreneurs, 65% of veteran entrepreneurs indicated their military experience has prepared them for the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, 68% indicate that they do not anticipate closing their business, while 32% anticipate closing or have closed their business. Of those who anticipate closing, 13% can operate for less than three months, 47% can operate between six and 12 months, and 40% can operate more than a year. Top resource needs during this past year are centered on access to capital, contracting assistance, and day-to-day operations. Of course, these trends differ based on the industry, gender, race/ethnicity and location of the veteran small business.
It’s still too early to determine the long-term effects the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the veteran business community at large. Therefore, it must be a priority to continue to monitor the situation as we continue to adapt our business.
The unemployment rates during COVID-19 were at the highest early in the recession with April-June 2020 having the highest unemployment rates for veterans. Even though unemployment rates showed gradual declines mid-year, the numbers are not at pre-pandemic levels. Although trends vary depending on where they are and what industry they are in, some subgroups of veterans were hit harder:
- Younger veterans, ages 18-34
- Women post-9/11 veterans
- Minority veteran populations
- Older veterans
The unemployment rate for military spouses has always been on average higher – 3 to 4 times higher – than the veteran unemployment rate, and this past year was no different. Fluctuation existed throughout the year and for some, military spouses had to adjust their work schedules to help with their children’s education. Despite military spouse hiring initiatives, military spouses still perceive employers as reluctant to hire and promote them. As potential solutions, they identify work schedule flexibility, hiring through corporate employers with multiple locations, and reasonable accommodations from commands for service members to maintain work-life balance.
We have been preparing for another recession since 2011, a time when veteran unemployment was at double digits. Since 2011, there has been a growing interest in public and private sector programs, increased collaboration, and improved educational benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on military-connected employment is unclear, but it is remarkable that the current infrastructure is established, mature, and ready to support veterans who have been impacted by the pandemic.
One study of active-duty military families found that military spouses who indicated their employment was impacted by COVID-19 reported more severe financial impacts than those whose employment status was not affected by the pandemic. Preliminary findings from a related study indicate the lack of available childcare options, absence of flexible work options, difficulty juggling work and children’s educational support, and layoffs and furloughs throughout the pandemic has contributed to a change in employment status, with many military spouse respondents reporting they had stopped working or reduced their work hours at some point since March 2020.
The use of telehealth was in place prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has rapidly accelerated its use. Yet there continue to be reported barriers to obtain mental health care.
COVID-19 is altering how services are delivered and resources allocated, and the pandemic is highlighting urgent mental health needs in general as well as those within the veteran populations. As the pandemic continues, veterans will continue to need access to reliable programs, services, and physical and mental health treatment, while avoiding unnecessary exposure to the virus.
In one study, nearly one-quarter of active-duty military family respondents reported that COVID-19 has resulted in major or severe impacts on their own overall happiness and mental health, as well as to their children’s mental health.
COVID-19 has presented significant challenges for student veterans. Approximately 74% of student veterans in a recent survey indicated they are concerned with how COVID-19 will impact their educational goals, and nearly one-third indicated they have experienced a reduction in their work hours.
As COVID has undoubtedly altered the traditional education of college students nationwide, student veterans need targeted support considering the recent disruptions. The shift to online coursework has exacerbated the complexity and uncertainty associated with Post-9/11 GI Bill funding, as coordination and late payments across university departments disrupt the academic progress of student veterans.
Researchers available for an interview:
Rosalinda Vasquez Maury
Director of Applied Research and Analytics
Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families
Misty Stutsman Fox
Director of the Entrepreneurship and Small Business portfolio
Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families
To request interviews or for more information:
Media Relations Manager
Division of Marketing and Communications