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Navigating the Road to Reintegration: Status and Continuing Support of the U.S. Air Force's Wounded Warriors

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The United States has been fighting wars in Iraq and then Afghanistan for well over a decade. Those conflicts have exacted a toll, not only in treasure and blood but also on servicemembers who have returned from the battlefield with physical and mental injuries and illnesses. Some remain on active duty, some move into the reserves, and others leave the service and seek civilian employment. However, all face a range of challenges, from reestablishing patterns of everyday interactions with their families to finding a job. Many must also cope with injuries and the treatment for those wounds. They must seek mental health services in some cases or navigate the complex array of the programs and systems of care available to veterans. The military services and the Department of Veterans Affairs have aggressively developed programs to help servicemembers reintegrate, with particular interest in mitigating the difficulties of reintegration for servicemembers with mental wounds. The U.S. Air Force wanted to gain greater insight into the well-being of its members who have sustained mental or physical injuries in combat or combat-related situations, with an eye toward improving services provided and enabling wounded airmen to become fully functioning members of society, and taking advantage of ongoing research into how best to do so. Areas of interest include their quality of life and the challenges that will impede their reintegration following separation or retirement. To begin the process of gaining this insight, the Air Force asked RAND s Project AIR FORCE for assistance in gauging the current status of the Air Force s wounded warriors, including their use of and satisfaction with Air Force programs designed to serve them. This report presents the baseline findings from the longitudinal analysis undertaken to understand these ongoing issues.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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