TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Researchers from the University of Alabama are seeking military veterans in the Birmingham area to participate in surveys and focus groups to assess their needs.
The UA School of Social Work’s Office for Military Families and Veterans has partnered with nonprofit Vettes 4 Vets on the Greater Birmingham Veterans Needs Assessment, which aims to provide state and national military support groups an accurate and detailed picture of veterans’ needs, from medical care to job training.
“There are veterans support organizations that are interested in coming to Alabama, so this needs assessment, which is based on veterans’ own opinions, will help engage larger entities and encourage them to come to Alabama,” said Kirsten Laha-Walsh, project director and PhD student in the UA School of Social Work. “And, for those support groups already here in Alabama, this assessment can help refocus their efforts to where they’re needed most.”
Researchers are seeking participants for online surveys and support groups in Jefferson and Shelby Counties, where nearly 10,000 veterans live, Laha-Walsh said. Any military veteran in this area can take the survey, but the focus groups are targeting six populations for participation: post and pre-9/11 veterans; female veterans; National Guardsmen and reservists; Black veterans; and rural veterans.
Laha-Walsh, a Navy veteran who is married to a Purple Heart veteran, said she understands some veterans may be hesitant to discuss sensitive or traumatic experiences related to their military service, and to achieve a judgement-free environment, she and Eveitta Henderson, an active duty social worker in San Diego, will lead the virtual focus groups.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to support military veterans and the organizations serving them as we work towards the shared goal of developing a stronger veterans’ network across the state,” said Dr. David L. Albright, an Army veteran and the Director of the Office for Military Families and Veterans.
Albright previously led veterans needs assessments in Southwest Alabama and Dallas, Marengo, and Wilcox Counties, and an AARP Alabama study on Alabama’s older veterans.
Researchers are offering financial incentives to both participants and organizations who refer veterans. More information can be found at uamilitarysocialworkresearch.wordpress.com.