March 29, 2016

CNAS Releases Assessment of Issues Facing Veterans in Dallas-Fort Worth


A new assessment by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) published today finds that Dallas-Fort Worth area veterans face diverse challenges including access to VA services, economics, housing, and transportation issues, with many of these issues exacerbated by the region's booming economy.

The report, “Needs Assessment: Veterans in the Dallas-Fort Worth Region” was underwritten by The Hawn Foundation, The Hoglund Foundation, the King Foundation Initiatives Fund of The Dallas Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. The study was authored by CNAS researchers Katherine KidderAmy Schafer, and Phillip Carter.

This mixed methods study provides a comprehensive portrait of veterans in Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the nation's largest and densest veterans communities. CNAS researchers used cutting-edge analytical tools from the Veterans Data Project to better understand the population, leveraging public data sets made available by DoD, VA, and the Census Bureau to understand macro-level trends in the area.  In addition to this data, the CNAS team conducted interviews and working group discussions with individuals representing more than 50 public, private and nonprofit sector organizations serving veterans in the region, and conducted surveys of area veterans as well.

The research produced a number of observations and conclusions regarding issues facing veterans and military families in the region. Key findings of the report include:

  • The DFW region is home to approximately 386,358 veterans, making up roughly 1.8 percent of the national veteran population. Veterans comprise 8.1 percent of the adult DFW population, making it one of the denser veteran communities in the nation.

  • In 2014, the VA spent nearly $2.5 billion in the region, with major expenditures divided between benefits in the form of compensation and pensions ($1.3 billion), medical care ($844 million), and education and vocational rehabilitation ($292 million).

  • The DFW Metroplex has a large influence on a diverse spectrum of communities, ranging from rural outlying counties like Wise County in the northwest and Hood County in the southwest to urban communities in downtown Dallas and Fort Worth.

  • Vietnam-era veterans make up the largest proportion of the DFW region’s overall veteran population. According to feedback from interviews and working groups, the Vietnam-era cohort presents the highest amount of need for services.

  • Female veterans in the region face acute obstacles, including difficulty in accessing women’s health care specialists and challenges in finding housing or shelter.

  • Regional transportation shortfalls were listed as an access barrier for veterans seeking health care, benefits, and employment in nearly all interviews and working groups. Compounding these transportation issues are the distances from outlying counties to VA resources – in some cases, VA patients must travel more than 80 miles to the main VA hospital in southern Dallas.

  • Resources in Texas are strongly rooted at the county level. Coordination between public, private, and nonprofit organizations varies across the counties, ranging from formal collectives in Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, and Collin counties to more informal networks of resources in rural outlying areas.

The North Texas Veterans Funders Collaborative, an informal group North Texas foundations with a shared interest in serving veterans, commissioned the study in 2015. There are ten funding organizations currently participating in the Collaborative: Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, The Hersh Foundation, The Hoglund Foundation, Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, The Miles Foundation, The Rees-Jones Foundation, The Mike and Mary Terry Family Foundation, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

The CNAS Military, Veterans, and Society Program includes research addressing this community, including but not limited to military personnel issues, veterans and military health care, transformative technologies and approaches for serving veterans and military personnel, and building a national strategy to support the veterans and military community.

To produce this report, the CNAS team conducted its research between August 2015 and January 2016 for this report, including interviews or working group discussions from representatives of more than 50 public, private, and nonprofit sector organizations serving veterans in the region.

The full report is available at:

This report was made possible through the generous support of The Hawn Foundation, The Hoglund Foundation, the King Foundation Initiatives Fund of The Dallas Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. However, the opinions expressed in the report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor, consistent with CNAS policies on intellectual independence and support, available online at

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.