Running head: Homelessness 1 Homeless Veterans Brian Switzer SOC 470/471 Dr. Greenwood

Homeless Veterans Research Paper

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Page 1: Homeless Veterans Research Paper

Running head: Homelessness 1

Homeless Veterans

Brian Switzer

SOC 470/471

Dr. Greenwood

Page 2: Homeless Veterans Research Paper



The purpose of this research is to examine the causes of veteran homelessness, mainly looking

at the cohort group who joined the military after 1974. The particular cohort investigated are

from peacetime military and the first enlisted under the all-volunteer military. The investigation

looks at previous military life, military service and post military experience to try to explain the

reasons this cohort is most affected with homelessness.

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In the 1980’s surveys conducted on homelessness, the high proportions of veterans

among the homeless was found to be forty-one percent, where in the general population only

thirty-four percent ever served in the military (Rosenheck et al. 1994). The homeless veteran’s

largest proportions were from peacetime service, meaning they were not part of a conflict or


Veterans that served after Korean War to the beginning of Vietnam Conflict and Post-

Vietnam Conflict were the highest among the homeless veterans. What is the connections

needed to understand why peacetime veterans are have a higher risk of homelessness,

compared to veterans that serve during conflicts (Rosenheck et al. 1994)?

The risk of becoming homeless is more likely to happen to someone who served in the

military than someone who has never served (Gamache et al. 2001, Rosenheck et al. 1994).

That is where understanding of what about the military veteran that makes them at more risk

than other groups.

The problem that needs understanding why are veterans permeating the homeless

population at higher rates than those numbers in occur in the general society. If the society

population means were the same as the homeless population then only roughly two percent

would be homeless. The research question to answered is how can we prevent a repeat of

higher veteran homelessness in the future, is their pre-military background, time in service or

post-military factors that affect the veteran population?

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This research project is going to examine the homeless veteran situation through

literature review and with interviews of veterans based on their life experiences before the

military, military service and post military life to try and explain who and why veterans are at

risk of becoming homeless.

Review of Literature

The literature on the research on veteran homelessness started in the 1980’s when

society in general was concerned about homelessness. The original studies started by thinking

most of the homeless were Vietnam Veterans but instead they found that the majority were

post-Vietnam (Rosenheck et al. 1994).

“The Proportion of Veterans among Homeless Men” (Rosenheck et al. 1994) examines

homelessness and veterans high rate among homeless men. The largest cohort of veterans

were not the ones that suffered from war trauma, but those were served in peacetime and

volunteered for the military instead of conscription. Even those from a certain time of

conscription that was peacetime after Korea and before Vietnam had higher rates of

homelessness (Rosenheck et al. 1994).

The main age groups affected at the time of the study was twenty years of age to thirty-

five years and forty-five to fifty-four years old. Both of these groups were not part of combat

operations and the first group was part of the first to be part of the all-volunteer military.

The data showed that white veterans had higher rates of high school diplomas, married

and also living alone in comparison to the nonveterans who were homeless of the same ages.

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Mental disorder of anti-social disorder is also five to six times higher among veterans

(Rosenheck et al. 1994).

Another research team decided to look at the veteran numbers among the homeless

again to see if the original numbers were valid or just a one-time occurrence, and they found

the same age groups from previous study had aged also by ten years. The demographic group

of the original study of twenty to thirty-four year olds had aged to thirty to forty-four years of

age (Gamache et al. 2001).

In 1997, another research team looked at the phenomena about homeless veterans

from the all-volunteer military led by Gail Gamache, which included the original member of the

first research that found the cohort group. The research was not longitudinal because they did

not have the original individuals from the first research (Gamache et al. 2001).

Veterans were still over represented in this particular age cohort and the same

hypothesis remained that “poorly adjusted young men” were admitted to the military

(Gamache et al. 2001). The young men during July 1974 to 1984 were of lower socioeconomic

backgrounds and had fewer family connections. The individuals seem to have more behavioral

problems along with alcohol and drug issues.

The same issues seemed from the 1987 research, be still relevant in 1997. All those who

were part of the peacetime military still have a 1.38 odds ratio of becoming homeless with the

cohort of thirty five to forty-four year olds at the highest of 2.90 odds ratio (Gamache et al.


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Other results showed white males were at greater risk of homelessness than black men

were, and as a male gets older into the forty-five range the odds increase on chances of

becoming homeless. With limited formal support from the VA due to non-wartime events, the

assistance is not available for treatments for issues they may have suffered from either pre-

military or from during their military experiences (Gamache et al. 2001).

Theory of causes or reasons for veteran homelessness has been suggested to social

selection (Tessler et al. 2003). Richard Tessler and his team examined the reasons for those who

have joined the military after June 30, 1973 and what pre-existing issues that veterans could

have had prior to joining the military.

The pre-existing conditions help people sort themselves into groups or organizations

they feel attuned to. The military provided those with low-skills, lower education and

socioeconomic conditions an opportunity to escape their conditions of living (Tessler et al.

2003). However, unfortunately the individuals in question carried with them the same issues

while in the military with them.

The main purpose of the research was to examine was why veterans experiencing

longer terms of homelessness compared to nonveterans are. Longer terms of homelessness are

connected to those who from a certain cohort shares similar issues. One was the abuse of

alcohol and drugs. Less family ties because of possible dysfunction in the homes of those who

joined the military because those who at a younger age placed in foster care show lower rates

of homeless periods compared to those who were not in foster care (Tessler et al 2003).

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The factors involved in veterans reasoning for homelessness is multifaceted and

complex from the time period in which they joined, family ties, psychiatric illness, and alcohol

abuse. Each one of these can contribute but veterans show more signs of these issues than

nonveterans which leads to longer terms so homelessness (Tessler et al 2003).

The National Center on Homelessness among Veterans with the U.S. Department of

Veterans Affairs in August of 2011 provided a report that explained the homeless situation for

homelessness among veterans. The main issue was the age cohort from the post-Vietnam era,

those who were part of the All-Volunteer Military and also provided data on women veterans

which most of the initial research conducted not examine (Fargo et al. 2011).

The investigated supported the theory on social selection for part of the reasoning

behind the homeless issues for the age cohort from 1974 to 1984. The personal traits of those

who joined the military of this time had issues with mental illness, weak family ties, and alcohol

and drug problems before joining the military (Fargo et al. 2011).

The research on female veterans is quite limited and not to the extent of the male

research conducted. The information provided is contrary, females veterans are from the

Vietnam era, they do not have the same age cohort effect that males have. But, female

veterans that was examined are at greater risk of homelessness by up to four times the risks

compared to other female nonveterans.

The research conducted used data from Point-in-Time (PIT) survey conducted by

Housing and Urban Development in 2011 along with tracking by Homeless Management

Information System (HMIS) to calculate the number of homeless veterans. The sources were

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from Continuum of Care facilities which produced the Annual Homeless Assessment Report

(AHAR), along with the VA creating the Vet-AHAR (Fargo et al. 2001). The overall assessment

was with PIT was 75,609 homeless veterans on any given day with an overall status for the year

being 136,334 homeless veterans.

The information also gathered was based on sex, age, race/ethnicity and Poverty rates.

The sex main demographic is ninety-two percent of homeless males, while females and married

homeless veterans made up the last eight percent. Seventeen percent of males and almost

three percent of females reported as veterans, where in the overall population, twenty percent

of males and 1.4 percent of females are veterans (Fargo et al. 2001).

This data is a reverse from earlier research that male veterans were over represented in

the homeless population, which females now are being overrepresented. This information is a

change from earlier research that showed males being over represented in homeless


The age demographics reveal that older a veterans get the higher the risks of being

homeless increases. The current age with highest over representation are from fifty-one to

sixty-one of age and the youngest group being from eighteen to thirty years old. The first group

are from the age cohort after Vietnam and the second are from current military experiences

both wartime and peacetime (Fargo et al. 2001).

Race and Ethnicity did not provide any separation from general population in the main

groups of White, Black and Hispanic, but Asians, Pacific-Islanders, and American Indians did

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have over representation among the homeless population compared to their general

populations (Fargo et al. 2001).

A new demographic used with this research was looking at the poverty rates and using

them as a way to measure risks to homelessness. The data showed that veterans were

underrepresented in poverty rates compared to general population. The poverty rates for

veterans was 5.6 percent compared to general population at 10.9 percent. The data though is

used to compare veterans in poverty to other veterans. This data is better to determine the

actual risks of veterans becoming homeless (Fargo et al. 2001).

By comparing poverty rates among the veterans population actual rates of being

homelessness among veterans the risk of becoming homeless is 12.6 percent compared to

general population at a risk of 6.5 percent. The veterans are double the risks of becoming

homeless (Fargo et al. 2001).

The overall results from this study provided the risks and demographics of today’s

homeless situation among veterans. The most startling data shows female veterans have the

highest risk of ninety-seven percent compared to men at forty-seven percent odds of being

homeless (Fargo et al. 2001). Also provided was the first to participate in the AVF are still

higher, but also in the general population also for the same age cohort.

The demographics of veterans at risk of homelessness is also examined by Ann

Montgomery and team by examining veterans that us Veterans Health Administration

Homeless Program (VHA) for services (Montgomery et al. 2014). This study examines both male

and female risks by those who use outpatient care over a three month period.

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The study conducted used data collected from the Homelessness Screening Clinical

Reminder (HSCR) used to screen veterans for risks of homelessness accessing outpatient care

(Montgomery et al. 2014). The time period covered was a total of three months of data that

consisted only those actively accessing outpatient care. Those excluded included those not seen

in six months, incomplete data and denial of doing survey (Montgomery et al. 2014).

The demographics collected were age, race separated into three groups, marital status,

and VHA enrollment priority groups, which indicates level of VA compensation and very

whether the veteran is very low income (Montgomery et al. 2014).

The study example consisted of 1,582,125 veterans with a further breakdown of

107,504 are females (Montgomery et al. 2014). The main information gathered is male veterans

are 93.2 percent of the population using VHA, 69.9 percent are white and a third of the females

were married compared to two/thirds males married (Montgomery et al. 2014).

The females using VHA in which two/thirds are receiving VA compensation where only

half of the men receive compensation. Also data revealed those using VHA outpatient care only

0.8 percent were homeless, and 1.1 percent were at risk of homelessness. The rest were

negative of risks of homelessness (Montgomery et al. 2014).

Females from the ages of forty-five to fifty-four had a higher risks of homelessness, as

with those were not listed as white, but marital status was a large indicator of risk to

homelessness and those not receiving VA compensation or Medicaid (Montgomery et al. 2014).

Younger females were more likely to not report risk of homelessness where older females from

the age of thirty-five to fifty-four did report risks, but those under age thirty-four. Even though

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the older group did report a risk, they did not show in the numbers and were at less risk than

those under thirty-five years of age (Montgomery et al. 2014).

Men over the age of fifty-five were less likely to report homelessness risks, where those

younger than thirty-five were also less likely to report a risk of homelessness. The middle ages

of thirty-five to fifty-four were more likely to report risks to homelessness. Black males were at

a higher risks as with those not receiving VA compensation. Marital status as single also had

higher risks than married (Montgomery et al. 2014).

The risks of being homeless using VHA outpatient care shows that females older than

thirty-five to fifty-four were at greater risks but also had fewer supports than younger female

veterans, who listed may be living at parents’ home. When compared by race black females are

also at greater risks than white females. The same can be said for black men compared to white

men (Montgomery et al. 2014). Other data not collected by reviewed by researchers dealt with

women issues of homelessness, which included other social factors as violence, lack of housing,

child rearing as a single parent and low wage employment (Montgomery et al. 2014).

Another research project by Ann Elizabeth Montgomery was the ‘Development and

Validation of an Instrument to Assess Imminent Risk of Homelessness Among Veterans”

(Montgomery. 2014). The sole purpose was to devise a way to assess the risks to veterans to


The study consisted of looking at three parts of the problem, first, how to identify those

at risk, second, what households are at risk and third, what causes the particular issues of

homelessness of those surveyed(Montgomery et al. 2014). The main focus and instrument of

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concern was based on housing instability past ninety days to next ninety days (Montgomery et

al. 2014). Of the three hundred and seven nine veterans surveyed at outpatient clinics and

included into their medical records, fifty four percent were listed as moderate to high risk of

homelessness (Montgomery et al. 2014).

The newest cohort of veterans to be examined are those who served in Iraq and

Afghanistan Conflicts. Stephen Metraux and team examine the “Risk Factors for Becoming

Homeless Among a Cohort of Veterans Who Served in the Era of the Iraq and Afghanistan

Conflicts” (Metraux. 2013).

The methods involved was a five year study of those who separated from the military

during the period of July 1, 2005 to September 30 2006 (Metraux. 2013). The subjects followed

who used VA services and tracked for incidences of homelessness. The demographic

information collected was ages, sex, race/ethnicity, type of discharge, military branch. Also

collected was physical impairment along with mental issues from serving in either operations in

Iraq or Afghanistan.

What was found is those who are the lowest paygrades (E-1 to E-4) and also the group

with higher ratings for TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (Metraux. 2013). The male

population being in the highest risks due to being in both conflict operations, but other

information from the tables is most of the individuals at the highest risks also served in the

Army. The Air Force had lower rates as with the Navy, but those who served in active combat

zones had a greater chance of developing both psychotic disorders and substance abuse issues

(Metraux. 2013).

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Females had higher risk of becoming homeless from psychotic disorders but less for

substance abuse disorders than men (Metraux. 2013). The risks is also high for those discharged

early with either Other than Honorable discharges to Bad Conduct Disorders (Metraux. 2013).

The study was only using data available at the time from the VA health services and not

all individuals that were discharged at this time use VA services and those who are discharged

early with Dishonorable discharges and higher are not available for services from the VA. But,

with the data and demographics we can conclude that those who are the youngest, lowest pay

grade and served in the Army are the greatest risk of homelessness, but anyone that served in

either area of operations do have a risk (Metraux. 2013).

Research Plan and Methodology


The methodological approach used in this research is direct interviews with veterans

both homeless currently and those who were homeless in the past year. Both male and females

will be asked to be interviewed. The questions of the interviews will be looking for similarities

from their lives previous to joining the military, reasons for joining the military. The questions

during their military experiences will include drug and alcohol use and reasons for leaving the

military whether voluntary to involuntary discharge (Appendix A).

Each participant identity will be kept confidential and only demographic information will

be taken as identifiers such as age, sex, race/ethnicity and branch of service. Other data will be

collected will be drug use before, during and after military service, along with alcohol use.

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Physical and mental diagnosis will also be used due to these have shown a factor in veteran


The role used during research is observer/participant due to the interaction from

previous exposure to the veterans at Jackson Street Commons in which I worked to gain their

trust and understanding that I am only there to help and understand their issues.

Permission has been given by the staff of Jackson Street Commons and from

Coordinated Assisted Ministries to conduct interviews and complete questionnaires to gain

better insight on the homeless issues. The only issue of concern I had for conducting the

research interviews was participation from enough individuals and especially those of the right

cohort that is of interest.

Presentation of Observations

Observations made while performing research are as such eighty-seven percent of

respondents are male, and eighty percent are white males which is consistent with other

studies that have presented demographic information, as with females due to only one

respondent I cannot make the same comparison. The age ranges were from forty-one to sixty-

seven years of age, ranging from Vietnam service to just prior to the post-Gulf War I (Table 1).

The most relevant observation from interviews are those that leave the military before

their commitment is over, are at higher risks than those who do not. Also alcohol and drug use

before military service and family ties did play a factor in those choosing military life, and in

once instance the individual chose military over becoming a statistic of his friends that all ended

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up in prison or dead. Even though two respondents were discharged with an Honorable

discharge it was still before their commitment was over.

Mental health in several respondents does constitute issues that have led to their

periods of homelessness. Alcohol abuse mainly being the main issue, but other mental health

issues included were anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder with schizophrenia. Drug use also for

six respondents post military service, and four during military service also may have played a

part in the situation of becoming homeless also (Table 2).

Social selection for joining the military and during and after military service do make a

difference but also those who choose military service are at risk because of lower family ties,

but mainly due to mental disorders that include alcohol abuse need to focused on.

Other observations of social selection is how the residents of Jackson Street Commons

associate themselves with others of the facilities. The age cohort from the ending of Vietnam to

early 80’s group themselves, older African Americans group themselves and the younger

veterans from first Gulf War to present keep to their rooms. Those who have refrained from

drinking do not associate with the drinkers.

Interpretations and Conclusions

The issues with homeless veterans is very complex and ultimately comes down to

personal choices from what they do as teens and high school, why and what they want from

the military upon enlistment, to their choices and decisions after they leave the military.

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Society also plays a role in how veterans and homeless veterans are perceived. When

society supports the military service members during their time in service and after then the

support network is there to keep the veterans from being homeless, but those from

dysfunctional families also play a role for the reasons people join the military (Lutz. 2008).

Blacks and Hispanics seem to have better support along with reasons to join the military

to change their socioeconomic situation. White males seem to be from lower socioeconomic

situations but take their habits with them into the military to just do something with no real

goal (Bachman. 2000)

The government is trying to eliminate veteran homelessness. They have lowered the

number of homeless veterans on the streets, there are still those who are homeless due to

poor decisions, lack of VA assistance due to their service discharge classification or prison


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Bachman, Jerald G., Segal, David R., Freedman-Doan, Peter., and O’Malley, Patrick M. (2000).

“Who Chooses Military Service? Correlates of Propensity and Enlistment in the U.S.

Armed Forces”. Military Psychology. 12(1):1-30

Gamache, G., Rosenheck, R., and Tessler, R. 2001. “The Proportion of Veterans among

Homeless Men: A Decade Later”. Social Psychiatric Epidemiol. (36):481-485

Lutz, Amy. (2008). “Who Joins the Military? A Look At Race, Class, and Immigration Status”

Journal of Political and Military Sociology. (36) Winter: 167-188

Metraux, Stephen., Clegg, Limin., Daigh, John D., Culhane, Dennis P., and Kane, Vincent. 2013.

“Risk Factors for Becoming Homeless among Cohort of Veterans Who Served in the Era

of the Iraq and Afghanistan Conflicts”. American Journal of Public Health. 103 (Supp 2):


Montgomery, Ann Elizabeth, PhD., Dichter, Melissa E, PhD, MSW., Thomasson, Arwin M. PhD.,

Fu, Xiaoying, MS., Roberts, Christopher B. MPH. (2015). “Demographic Characteristics

Associated with Homelessness and Risk Among Female and Male Veterans Accessing

VHA Outpatient Care”. Women’s Health Issues. (25-1):42-48

Rosenheck, Robert., Frisman, Linda,. and Chung, An-Me. (1994) “The Proportion of Veterans

among Homeless Men”. American Journal of Public Health. (84) March, 3:466-469

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Tessler, Richard., Rosenheck, Robert., and Gamache, Gail. (2003). “Homeless Veterans of the

All-Volunteer Force: A Social Selection Perspective”. Armed Forces & Society.

Summer.29 (4): 509-524

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Appendix A

Concept Map

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Appendix B

Veteran Questionnaire

Age____________ Sex_____________ Military Service____________________

Married/Single/Divorce Drafted/Enlisted Discharge Type____________________

Ethnicity_____________________ Type of Duty/MOS______________________

Prior Military

Before you joined the military, were you involved in any behavior that may have been considered criminal from minor misdemeanors or higher?

Did you graduate high school or get a General Education Diploma?

What was your family life at the time of your enlistment, such as your parents married or divorce?

Before your enlistment, did you partake in the use of alcohol or illegal drugs?

Why did you join the military?

Were you given the option at the time by a Judge to join the military or serve time in jail?


While serving in the military did, you have problems during service?

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Did you partake in the use of illegal drugs while in the military?

What was the alcohol use environment while you were in the military?

What was the reasons for ending your enlistment in the military?

Post Military

After leaving the military, were you able to find employment?

What was the problems you encountered upon leaving the military?

What was main factor that effected your life to bring you to the position of homelessness or by the definition of being homeless?

How long would you consider that you were homeless?

Compared to last year how has your life changed to make changes in your life?

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Appendix C



Output Created 27-APR-2015 12:09:34


Input Data \\Client\J$\Senior Seminar\Veterans.sav

Active Dataset DataSet1

Filter <none>

Weight <none>

Split File <none>

N of Rows in Working Data File 8

Syntax CODEBOOK Age [s] Sex [n] Race [n]

Branch [n] Discharge [n] Talcohol [n] Tdrug

[n] Mdrug [n] Palcohol [n] Pdrug [n] Mental [n]






Resources Processor Time 00:00:00.02

Elapsed Time 00:00:00.10



Standard Attributes Position 1

N Valid 8

Missing 0

Central Tendency and


Mean 53.00

Standard Deviation 9.986


Page 23: Homeless Veterans Research Paper


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 2

Valid Values 1 Male 7 87.5%

2 Female 1 12.5%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 3

Valid Values 1 White 7 87.5%

2 Black 1 12.5%

3 Hispanic 0 0.0%

4 Other 0 0.0%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 4

Valid Values 1 Air Force 0 0.0%

2 Army 4 50.0%

3 Marine Corps 1 12.5%

4 Navy 2 25.0%

5 Reserves/National

Guard1 12.5%

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Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 5

Valid Values 1 Honorable 4 50.0%

2 Honorable

(Medical)3 37.5%

3 Other Than

Honorable0 0.0%

4 UnHonorable 1 12.5%

5 Bad Conduct

Discharge0 0.0%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 6

Valid Values 1 No 1 12.5%

2 Yes 7 87.5%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 7

Valid Values 1 No 4 50.0%

2 Yes 4 50.0%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 8

Valid Values 1 No 5 62.5%

2 yes 3 37.5%

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Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 9

Valid Values 1 No 3 37.5%

2 Yes 5 62.5%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 10

Valid Values 1 No 2 25.0%

2 Yes 6 75.0%


Value Count Percent

Standard Attributes Position 11

Valid Values 1 Alcohol

Dependence0 0.0%

2 Drug Dependence 0 0.0%

3 Mental Illness 1 12.5%

4 Multiple Issues 5 62.5%

5 None 2 25.0%

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Table 1

Table 2

Mental Health IssuesFrequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent

Valid Mental Illness 1 12.5 12.5 12.5Multiple Issues 5 62.5 62.5 75None 2 25 25 100Total 8 100 100

The multiple issues included alcohol dependence, drug dependence and mental illness. The individuals that reported multiple issues had a combination of two or more of the issues listed.

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Table 3

Military DrugFrequencyPercent Valid PercentCumulative Percent

Valid No 5 62.5 62.5 62.5yes 3 37.5 37.5 100Total 8 100 100

Table 4

Discharge TypeFrequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent

Valid Honorable 4 50 50 50Honorable (Medical) 3 37.5 37.5 87.5Unhonorable 1 12.5 12.5 100Total 8 100 100