Returning military veterans and support agencies must consider transportation access to essential services, lest returning military veterans can have a more difficult time reintegrating into civilian life. Transit-oriented development (TOD) may provide a viable option for veterans with disability to help meet their post-service needs independently and successfully. That is the conclusion of the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium’s latest peer-reviewed research report, Exploring Transportation, Employment, Housing, and Location Issues for New Jersey Veterans with Disability. The study included interviews with personnel at veterans’ services organizations, along with focus-group interviews with veterans themselves. Principal investigators were Stephanie DiPetrillo and Andrea Lubin of Rutgers University. The free report can be downloaded from the vtc.rutgers.edu or http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1144.html
“Mobility limitations can adversely affect veterans’ ability to reach medical services and employment,” said Ms. DiPetrillo. “Isolation, both physical and emotional, can make reintegration more difficult. Adequately addressing transportation concerns can allow veterans with disabilities to more easily meet their diverse needs. Promoting transportation independence, through access to public transportation and locational efficiency, is one way to meet these needs.”
The research team conducted a series of structured interviews/listening sessions with diverse public and private stakeholders in New Jersey and beyond related to the US veteran community. Specific attention was given to identifying and interviewing entities that assist working-age veterans with disabilities.
The majority agreed that transition to civilian life for many veterans involves learning to address a range of physical and/or mental/emotional illnesses or conditions. Seeking treatment is often difficult if transportation is not readily available. This factor also is a significant obstacle to finding gainful employment, stable housing, services, continuing education opportunities, and the ability to reconnect with family, friends, and community. Many interviewees emphasized that locating where public transit is limited or nonexistent can create significant obstacles for transition to civilian life and contributes to the high costs of providing transportation.
Among the report’s recommendations:
- Create a one-stop resource center to support veterans’ reintegration. This would guide a veteran through the discharge process and continue to provide consistent support from a single point of contact for the extended transition period.
- Establish an exploratory task force at the state level to discuss holistic approaches to veteran housing that can support multiple needs, including housing, employment, and transportation.
- Work to foster a more informed dialogue within the state and throughout the nation about the need to pursue holistic approaches to serve veterans seeking reintegration. Developing a media strategy to communicate study findings will contribute to this undertaking.
- Pursue additional research, gathering data on the transportation and siting characteristics of successful veteran transit-oriented development. This would help communities establish facilities that would support veterans’ transition.
The authors found that reintegrating with civilian society is daunting for all veterans and can easily be overwhelming without appropriate information and supports. Veterans coping with the additional strain of service-related disabilities must address and overcome even more obstacles.