Exploring veterans' resilience during natural disasters

The Challenge 

With millions of veterans reliant on services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the ability of the agency to effectively serve veterans during national emergencies is critical, particularly given the widespread predictions of an increase in natural disasters.

The role of the Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center (VEMEC) is to

  • Promote disaster resilience among veterans
  • Minimize disruptions at VA facilities during emergencies
  • Explore opportunities for veterans to contribute to the resiliency of their communities and the nation

For the first time, VEMEC is preparing to survey a national sample of veterans to explore the personal, social, and health factors that can help predict how resilient veterans may be in response to natural and man-made disasters.

Westat provided VEMEC with the technical, logistical, and research support needed to design the survey.

Our Solutions 

  • For the project, we
    • Reviewed scientific papers to establish the current, conventional wisdom on resilience and how to measure it (papers summarized in a methodical literature review)
    • Recommended existing instruments and measures that VEMEC could use to inform and design the survey
    • Conducted focus groups of veterans who discussed characteristics that affect resilience and how the survey should ask about key topics such as “community” and “disaster”
    • Applied best practices and modern questionnaire design techniques to develop draft versions of the questionnaire
    • Conducted cognitive testing of veterans to see how easily they understood the questionnaire items and instructions
    • Prepared and finalized the questionnaire in order to administer it in the form of web, paper, and computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI)

The Results 

  • By assessing the degree of disaster resilience in a nationally representative sample of U.S. military veterans, this research will
    • Assess the degree to which veterans possess the factors associated with resilience
    • Help VEMEC identify effective practices and tools that will minimize the impact of disasters on veterans, their families, and their communities

Our Client 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)