Homelessness Following Disability-Related Discharges from Active Duty Military Service in Afghanistan and Iraq

Homelessness Following Disability-Related Discharges from Active Duty Military Service in Afghanistan and Iraq

Abstract

Background

Many dynamics in the relationship among military service-related disabilities, health care benefits, mental health disorders, and post-deployment homelessness among US Veterans are not well understood.

Objectives

Determine whether Veterans with a disability-related discharge from military service are at higher risk for homelessness, whether Veterans Health Administration (VHA) service-connected disability benefits mitigates that risk, and whether risks associated with discharge type, service-connected disability, or the interaction between them vary as a function of mental health disorders.

Methods

Retrospective cohort study of 364,997 Veterans with a disability-related or routine discharge and initial VHA encounter between 2005–2013. Logistic regression and survival analyses were used to estimate homelessness risk as a function of discharge status, mental health disorders, and receipt of VHA disability benefits.

Results

Disability-discharged Veterans had higher rates of homelessness compared to routine discharges (15.1 verses 9.1 per 1,000 person-years at risk). At the time of the first VHA encounter, mental health disorders were associated with differentially greater risk for homelessness among Veterans with a disability discharge relative to those with a routine discharge. During the first year of VHA service usage, higher levels of disability benefits were protective against homelessness among routinely-discharged Veterans, but not among disability-discharged Veterans. By 5-years, disability discharge was a risk factor for homelessness (AOR=1.30).

Conclusions

In the long-term, disability discharge is an independent risk factor for homelessness. While VHA disability benefits help mitigate homelessness risk among routinely-discharged Veterans during the early reintegration period, they may not offer sufficient protection for disability-discharged Veterans.

JOURNAL: Disability and Health Journal
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017