SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2019) – University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee researchers have begun examining the results of two recent surveys to assess veterans’ needs in 10 Florida counties, including Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The researchers – Thomas Becker, PhD, and Ramakrishna Govindu, PhD, both of USFSM, and Eric Hodges, PhD, formerly of USFSM and now of Longwood University (Virginia) – say that while it’s too early to discuss results of the assessments, the researchers hope that their work provides a clearer understanding of veterans’ needs to help identify services that benefit them the most.
“While there is an abundance of data about veterans at the national level, very few studies have been conducted on the needs of veterans at the local level,” said Hodges, a political science professor and former Marine. “Based on our background research, this study is the first in Florida to look at veterans’ quality of life at the local level.”
The idea for the survey originated a little over a year ago after a discussion involving former USFSM student Chris Nothdurft and Carl Hunsinger, chairman of the Manatee County Veterans Council, a coalition of veterans’ organizations that represent about 40,000 Manatee County veterans.
“The needs assessment of military veterans was initiated by Christopher Nothdurft, a U.S. Army veteran and recent graduate of the USFSM MBA program,” said Becker, interim dean of USFSM’s College of Business. “Chris’ work inspired the creation of the Veteran Research Coalition at USFSM and other veteran research initiatives.”
Together, the group formed the USFSM Veterans Research Coalition and appointed Hodges as the survey’s project leader. The survey questions arose out of coalition meetings.
In general, the survey focuses on the veterans’ goals, quality of life and resilience to overcome obstacles. While personal in nature, the surveys were kept confidential and anonymous to protect the veterans’ identities. They consist of 47 questions and touch on a combination of lifestyle and medical topics, from personal finance, employment status and living arrangements to physical wellness and mental health.
“To truly understand the connections among resilience, goals and quality of life, it is important to ask about the personal lives of veterans,” Becker said. “To ensure the questions were proper and justified, they were approved by the USF Institutional Review Board.”
The survey was distributed in two phases. The first was emailed last fall to approximately 12,000 veterans in 10 Central and Southwest Florida counties: Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota. To identify the veterans, the researchers relied on email addresses from a database at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Pinellas County. So far, the professors have collected about 4,200 responses.
The second survey was mailed out in late July and August to 1,000 veterans in Manatee County. This came at the request of the Manatee County Veterans Council and targeted veterans who did not participate in the 10-county survey last fall, although some veterans may have responded to both surveys.
“The Manatee County Veterans’ Council was particularly interested in the conditions of vets in their county, therefore we targeted Manatee vets in the second sample,” Becker said. “The hope is that data from the two samples will both contribute to the science on veterans’ resilience and quality of life and enable more informed decisions about how to improve the lives of our veterans.”
The researchers made a Release of Names and Addresses (RONA) request to the Veterans Administration to identify the Manatee vets. Results of the second survey are trickling in now. About 310 Manatee County veterans have responded to the survey so far.
“It’s too early to say anything about results,” Hodges said. “We’re still in data collection. We believe this study will help identify veteran needs specific to Manatee County, as well as to the counties served by Bay Pines, in the hope that this information will allow local veteran service providers to provide excellent care to the vets and their families.”
For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit usfsm.edu.