November 10, 2015

New CNAS Report Outlines Current Issues Facing Veterans and Military Community

By Amy Schafer, Dr. Jason Dempsey, Katherine Kidder, and Phillip Carter


Washington, November 10 – As the 2016 election cycle moves into full swing, four experts from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) have released a new report, "Passing the Baton: A Bipartisan 2016 Agenda for the Veteran and Military Community.” The authors of the report – CNAS Military, Veterans, and Society Program Director Phillip Carter, CNAS Adjunct Fellow Jason Dempsey, CNAS Bacevich Fellow Katherine Kidder, and CNAS Research Assistant Amy Schafer – lay out a comprehensive overview of issues facing the veteran and military community and a plan with substantive recommendations for how the next President can best serve the veteran and military community.
Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Continued focus by the next administration on immediate issues such as access to health care, transition to civilian employment, and support to veterans in crisis (like those facing homelessness or legal problems).
  • Structural reform of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better serve veterans, including better alignment of the VA’s resources and requirements.
  • Expanded data sharing between the government, private, and non-profit sectors that enables needs assessment, resource allocation, and future planning.
  • Elimination of barriers to public-private-nonprofit partnerships that could help veterans better succeed in civilian life.
  • Identification of normative outcomes, and rigorous evaluation of how public, private and nonprofit programs perform against these outcomes.

"The 2016 elections will mark a watershed moment for the veteran and military community," said Phillip Carter, CNAS Senior Fellow and one of the report's authors. "This report outlines the critical issues and strategic issues facing this community as the nation ends two major wars, wrestles with an age of fiscal austerity, and enters a presidential election that will set the course of policy for this community and the nation."

“Policies related to the care of our military, veterans and their families have far-reaching effects, not only on the government agencies providing care, but the entire private/public sector which must address any gaps in services,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation which helped fund the report. “This report not only creates a dialogue as we look to elect our next Commander in Chief, it’s the first of its kind to comprehensively breakdown the demographics and issues facing today’s veterans.”

The link to the full report is available below:
Please find the Executive Summary of the report below:

On January 20, 2017, a new U.S. president will take the oath of office. At that moment, he or she will assume responsibility, as commander in chief of the armed forces, for the nation’s 2.4 million active and reserve service members and their 3 million family members. The next president will also inherit the task of supporting the nation’s 21 million veterans – a diverse population that has served presidents stretching back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The next president, like those before, will have to grapple with a military that remains forward-deployed and engaged in myriad theaters against a broad array of threats. The needs of the active and reserve force, their families, and the veteran population continue, even as an age of fiscal austerity grips the federal government and affects the ability of federal agencies to serve the veteran and military community. At the same time, demographic, social, economic, and geographic change within the veteran and military community will continue, or even accelerate in some cases, changing the profile for this community.

This paper outlines a bipartisan agenda for the next administration to support the veteran and military community – to serve it as well as it has served the nation. Regardless of who takes office in January 2017, the issues facing this community will continue, and they will become the responsibility of the next president. The key findings and recommendations of this agenda include:

  • Urgent and immediate issues. This set of issues includes those critical concerns facing the military and veteran community about which there is mostly political consensus, both on the problems and solutions. Transition, economic opportunity, health care access, and mental health provision, as well as support to veterans in crisis like those facing homelessness. No matter who wins in 2016, these issues will demand the next president’s attention and require immediate action (or effective continuance of current efforts) and signaling of dedicated oversight from the first day of the next administration.
  • Operational issues. A combination of factors – from demographic change within the veteran community to pressure from federal budget fights – has exposed fissures, gaps, and tension points within the system that serves the veteran and military community. These include such issues as access to veterans’ health care reform and benefits support, reform of the military personnel system, and connection of the military to society. On these matters, some agreement exists as to the nature or scope of the problems, but there is sharp disagreement on how to address them. These issues deserve attention from the next president; however, the election will likely determine their priority and what answers the next administration favors.
  • Strategic opportunities. Beyond the specific policy choices to be made by the next administration, there are a number of steps that can be taken by public-, private-, and nonprofit-sector leaders to continue momentum from the past 15 years of sup- port for the veteran and military community. These include opportunities to better share data inside and outside of government, use data to make better decisions affecting this community, and expand public-private-nonprofit partnerships to better serve the nation.

In addition to these points, this paper outlines a “first 100 days” agenda for the next president to immediately signal his/her commitment to the veteran and military community and take those necessary first steps to enable subsequent success. These steps include establishment of White House priorities and staff for this area, appointment and confirmation of key agency leaders, development of budget submissions to fully support this community, and early statements of administration policy on key issues such as funding priorities and the value of public-private partnerships.

Effective support for the veteran and military community matters for many reasons. National security depends
on the United States’ ability to recruit, retain, manage, and support its service members and their families. Most veterans do well after service, but some struggle, often needing support to tackle health, economic, and wellness challenges that impede their transition to civilian life. The government has a sacred trust with its veterans to help with these challenges and support private- and nonprofit-sector efforts to help too. The nation benefits from the successful transition and future success of veterans in myriad ways, including the contributions these veterans make to society after service, and the example they set for future generations weighing whether to join the All-Volunteer Force.

The report’s authors are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact JaRel Clay at or call 202-457-9410. 

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This report was made possible through the generous support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation and Veterans on Wall Street, in particular the leadership of Citi, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs. However, the opinions expressed in the report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Veterans on Wall Street or Citi, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs, 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.


  • Amy Schafer

    Former Research Associate, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Amy Schafer is a former fellow at the Center for a New American Security, where she focuses on civil-military relations, issues facing military families and veterans, and mili...

  • Dr. Jason Dempsey

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Jason Dempsey is an Adjunct Senior Fellow of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Dr. Dempsey has written extensively ...

  • Katherine Kidder

  • Phillip Carter

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Phillip Carter was the former Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security. His research focused on issu...