National Veterans Policy Framework


The imperatives for better serving our veterans and their families are plentiful and urgent. Today, the U.S. military is operating in 40% of the world’s countries.1 We are expansively deploying our military in the name of our nation’s defense, and yet the sustainability of the all-volunteer force has never been more at risk.  

In 2018, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the first time since 2005.2 The military is stretched thin, and yet the cost of war since 2001 reached nearly $6 trillion dollars and future costs expect to reach $15 trillion.3 Nearly 7,000 US soldiers have died in these efforts, bearing significant social and human costs as well.4 In other words, the United States is disengaged and disconnected from significant looming financial and security challenges.

All this, and still more veterans have died from suicide than from combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan.56 In the past ten years, the number of military veterans who have taken their own lives totals over 60,000. That’s a suicide every 80-minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Effective, research-backed policy is the way ahead to better serving this population. These guiding principles can guide better policy for veterans, and American society as a whole. Good public policy that better serves veterans will translate to better public policy and services for all Americans.

Improving the Transition Experience

  • Supporting successful transition for service-members and their families is not a government problem alone. There is a need for public, private and nonprofit organizations well-equipped to assist the transitioning service member and their family successfully navigate transition.
  • A successful transition is critical to long-term success and health in post-service life. Conversely, difficulties at the point of transition lead to long and persistent challenges faced by this population.
  • Programs and policy should aim to leverage and coordinate public and private organizations to assist in successful transition for all service members and military families

Navigation of Services

  • The number one challenge transitioning service members face is trouble navigating the sea of resources available to support them7
  • The difficulties faced by veterans and their families are not mutually exclusive of each other – in fact, veterans rarely face isolated needs or support.8
  • There is already a sizeable infrastructure of providers across the country, based in communities, that stands ready to support, encourage, and enable veterans and their families to live healthy and productive lives.9 However, without proper communication or connection to the community or veterans themselves, these services go unknown or inaccessible to the veteran they aim to serve.

Soldier providing medical treatment to a mother and child.

Veteran and Military Family Health

  • Treating the unique physical and mental wellness needs of veterans begins with the VA, but communities and other facets of government must also do more to support the complex health needs of this population.
  • Military spouses, caregivers and children also have distinct mental and physical health needs that require better access to social service providers, care and resources
  • Proactively and effectively addressing these health challenges is critical to ensuring that our veteran population continues to reap the benefits of the covenant they made with the United States government – one that new enlisted servicemembers must be included in as well

Soldier working on machinery.

Improving Economic Opportunity for Veterans and Military Families

  • Military service offers intensive training and experience in leadership, managing projects, programs, and people, and technical expertise necessary to carry out the mission of the United States military. All of these are directly applicable and in demand within the civilian economy.10
  • Ensuring the economic vitality of veteran’s post-service requires public, nonprofit, and private sector collaboration, investment, and dedication.
  • With advances in technology, the U.S. economy faces a seismic adjustment to the skills and careers that will be in demand. Veterans are well positioned to lead the way on this challenge, possessing necessary skills that will contribute to long-term American economic competitiveness.

Woman sailor standing in line of male sailors.

Women Veterans and Other Key Subpopulations

  • Many women veterans have a very different experience from their male counterparts spanning from their time in the service to their experience during transition and beyond.11
  • Minority veterans, another fast growing segment of the population, experience serious post-service challenges such as poverty, lack of health insurance, homelessness, unemployment and chronic diseases at higher rates compared with their white counterparts.12
  • The needs of women veterans and other key veteran subpopulations require specific, tailored programs that address their needs completely that are coordinated to address them holistically.

Guiding Principles

It is critical that policymakers and the public alike understand and mobilize behind a core set of foundational principles that underpin the effort to better serve veterans and their families. These principles are the values that ought to guide all of American society, unified in its effort, towards an envisioned end state where veterans are more empowered to thrive, and America is more secure.

View Guiding Principles


  1. Savell, S. (January 2019). This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military is Combatting Terrorism. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from
  2. Baldor, L. (September 21, 2018). Army Misses 2018 recruiting goal. AP NEWS. Retrieved from
  3. Crawford, N. (November 14, 2018). United States Budgetary Costs of the Post-9/11 Was Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spent and Obligated. Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Brown University. Retrieved from
  4. Cost of War Project. Summary of Findings. Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Brown University. Retrieved from
  5. Yoanna, M. (June 29, 2018). Some 78,000 Veterans and Troops Lost to Suicide Since 2005. KUNC. Retrieved from
  6. Brown, D. (November 9, 2018). Here’s How Many People Have Died in the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Task and Purpose. Retrieved from
  7. C. Zoli, R. Maury, & D. Fay, Missing Perspectives: Servicemembers’ Transition from Service to Civilian Life — Data-Driven Research to Enact the Promise of the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Institute for Veterans & Military Families, Syracuse University, November 2015).
  8. Van Slyke, R. D., & Armstrong, N. J. (2019). Communities Serve: A Systematic Review of Need Assessments on U.S. Veteran and Military-Connected Populations. Armed Forces & Society.
  9. Armstrong, N., McDonough, J., & Savage, D. (April 2015). Driving Community Impact: The Case for Local, Evidence-Based Coordination in Veteran and Military Family Services and the AmericaServes Initiative. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University.
  10. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran: Beyond Clichés.
  11. Maury, R.V.; Zoli, C., Fay, D.; Armstrong, N.; Boldon, N.Y.; Linsner, R. K; Cantor, G. (2018, March). Women in the Military: From Service to Civilian Life. Syracuse, NY: Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University.
  12. National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics. (March 2017) Military Service History and VA Benefit Utilization Statistics. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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