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June 2016

Preventing Veteran Homelessness by Reducing Military Sexual Trauma: Ensuring a Welcome Home

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Clinical Health Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • 2US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Clinical Neurosciences Division, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 4Psychiatry, Psychology and Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(6):551-552. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0136

Using data from the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA) from more than 600 000 veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, Brignone et al1 report in this issue of JAMA Psychiatry that a history of military sexual trauma (MST) is independently associated with postdeployment homelessness over a 5-year period. Importantly, this association was independent of a broad range of psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug use disorders, and serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. According to this study,1 a staggering number of veterans—nearly 1 in 10—with a history of MST became homeless within a 5-year period; this incidence rate (9.6%) was more than double that observed in veterans without a history of MST (4.3%). Moreover, the association between MST and postdeployment homelessness was more pronounced among male than female veterans (11.8% vs 8.9% at 5 years). Taken together, results of this study highlight the importance of including MST in theoretical models of postdeployment homelessness, of considering sex differences in the risk for homelessness in veterans, of promoting prevention and early intervention efforts for MST and associated mental health difficulties, and of facilitating access to secure housing for those veterans in need.

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