Newswise — Washington, D.C. (July 12, 2018) – A new study from American University finds that veterans who join a Veterans Services Organization (VSO) are less likely to experience social isolation, especially if they strongly identify with the organization.

Professor Cristel A. Russell, of Kogod School of Business, and Dr. Dale Russell, of the Uniformed Services University, published the findings in an article titled “It’s Not Just Showing Up: How Social Identification With a Veterans Service Organization Relates to Benefit-Finding and Social Isolation” in the journal Psychological Services.

The researchers, who surveyed 444 veterans, found that those who identified strongly with the VSO were not only less lonely but they also felt better about the value of their military service.

Russell notes: “Veterans often experience difficulty transitioning from military life back to civilian life.  VSOs can play a crucial role in sustaining the camaraderie that servicemembers often miss when they leave the military and our research shows direct health benefits.”

Additionally, the study found health benefits associated with VSO membership.  The veterans who were more actively engaged with VSO’s reported lower levels of post-traumatic stress.  The study also found that VSOs can play a critical role in helping veterans overcome stigmas and barriers associated with obtaining medical care.

Russell explained that “We have to think of care for veterans in a more holistic manner. Often what veterans seek out and need most is to be able to share their experiences with like-minded people.  They do not necessarily want to speak to doctors about their difficulties.  VSOs can play an important role in veterans’ health by providing social support and promoting shared values and a sense of community.”

The researchers hope that the study’s findings will encourage government agencies like the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to develop better partnerships with VSOs to assist veterans, as well as their family members, with life after military service and help combat social isolation.


About American University American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 130 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.