Since the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine’s veteran population has increased from roughly 500,000 to over 1.2 million and counting, yet the country’s ability to support its servicemembers has declined due to the war’s impact on the economy and infrastructure. Two…
IVMF’s Armstrong Delivers Congressional Testimony on Veteran Mental Health
Nicholas J. Armstrong, Ph.D., managing director, research and data for the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on June 15. Armstrong testified in a hearing titled “Reducing Veteran Suicide by Addressing Economic Risk Factors.” Armstrong said his testimony was framed around three broad recommendations for how the federal government can better address the economic risk factors for veteran suicide.
Armstrong first discussed expanding career training and credentialing offerings through public-private partnerships, pointing out that “Finding meaningful careers after service is among the greatest stressors for transitioning service members and their spouses.” Armstrong directed the attention of the committee to the programs being run by the IVMF. “Onward to Opportunity provides career exploration and employability skills training, and access to industry-recognized certifications to 11,000 transitioning service members, veterans, and spouses every year—again, at no cost.”
“Lack of access to these training programs can impact the employment outcomes of transitioning service members,” said Armstrong. “Service members who utilized credentialing and job training programs during transition were nearly twice as likely to find a job as those who did not.”
“We applaud the VA’s expansion of its job training offerings in the past two years of the pandemic,” said Armstrong. However, he highlighted that this work is just the beginning of a long process and that a better solution is the creation and expansion of public-private partnerships with successful nonprofits offering veteran employment and career training.
Armstrong pointed to a 2019 study by VA researchers that found the presence of adverse social stressors led to a 64% increase in the likelihood of suicidal ideation. He was proud to highlight efforts by the IVMF to help reduce some of those stressors, stating “Through our AmericaServes initiative, the IVMF works closely with nonprofit providers, local government agencies and in several locations, even VA facilities and DoD [Department of Defense] installations.” He further elaborated, “Since 2015, these networks have served the health, economic and social needs of more than 43,000 veterans and family members who requested more than 103,000 services—well over two services at a time, on average.”
Armstrong provided his final recommendations by stating, “Congress should also incentivize more cross-sector data sharing between government, private and social sector organizations to address complex issues such as suicide prevention and addressing social determinants of health.”
“Solutions, therefore, must include non-governmental partners—especially when it comes to addressing social and economic risk factors,” said Armstrong. “Expanding access to in-demand skills training with the private sector, investment in cross-sector efforts that streamline resource navigation and empowering greater data sharing are just three ways government can further mitigate these risks.”