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UA, AARP partner to study needs of Alabama’s older military vets

Jessica Ballard

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The University of Alabama Office for Military Families and Veterans and AARP Alabama are partnering to conduct a survey to assess the needs of older veterans in the state.

The study aims to pinpoint the needs of the vets in order to connect them to resources and services. According to David L. Albright, the Hill Crest Foundation endowed chair in mental health in UA’s School of Social Work and the director of the Office for Military Families and Veterans, the study primarily focuses on behavioral health, caregiving, food insecurity and homelessness.

Albright previously conducted a similar study to assess veteran need in South Alabama and Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties. He also recently partnered with Vettes 4 Vets and the United Way in order to assess the needs of veterans in Shelby and Jefferson counties.

“Our older veterans likely experience challenges around multiple domains, including behavioral health — from opioid and other substance misuse to suicide or suicide attempts,” Albright said. “And, yet, often the face of this type of complex problem is a younger face, which is not necessarily consistent with data that shows that Alabama’s veterans are mostly over the age of 50 years.”

In the U.S. nearly 10 percent of AARP members have served in the military.

AARP provides information to veterans regarding healthcare, finances and government benefits. The director of AARP Alabama, Candi Williams, said this survey is the first of its kind taken on by AARP, and the data collected will be used to influence the non-profit’s support for military veterans in the future.

“These data will help us build a plan of education, outreach and advocacy to support our veterans and is likely the pilot for a national effort,” Williams said.

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Albright said he also believes this partnership with AARP Alabama is a vital step toward identifying veterans’ needs and creating meaningful action at both the state and national levels.

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“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to partner with and support Alabama AARP through the Office for Military Families and Veterans, which continues to be the leader in the state’s postsecondary space in coordinating and facilitating collaborative research, education and outreach across the state of Alabama among military families, veterans and the organizations serving them.”

The study is expected to be complete this summer, and AARP hopes to share the report with partners serving veterans and military families in the fall.

 

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