Dani Molina Final Blog

The Next Great Generation?

Mapping the Most Impoverished Military Veterans and their Resource Availability


Providing an opportunity for working- and middle-class veterans to attend higher
education was a significant outcome of the 1944 GI Bill of Rights (Cohen & Kisker, 2010; Greenberg, 1997). Elites and high-income groups no longer reserved the benefits of a college education for themselves. In time, different iterations of the GI Bill were enacted, namely the Korean War GI Bill (1952), Viet Nam War GI Bill (1966), and Montgomery GI Bill (1985), that attempted to emulate the scope of offerings of the original GI Bill. These bills were not as financially generous as the WWII GI Bill (Greenberg, 1997).

As a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the U.S. is now involved in two of the longest wars in its history, and similar to the economic and unemployment conditions of WWII, the U.S. now finds itself needing to educate veterans to avoid their mass unemployment. For this purpose, Congress has recently enacted a robust GI Bill that is being offered to returning veterans of a magnitude not seen since the GI Bill of Rights: the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2011a).

The Post 9/11 GI Bill was first offered in the fall of 2009 and, as of December 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had issued about $7.2 billion to more than 425,000 veterans or their dependents to pay for tuition, housing, and books (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2011b). Veterans, particularly those who come from historically underserved and marginalized communities, now have a priceless opportunity to attend a college or university of their choice, regardless of institutional type or degree of selectivity. Indeed, with passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill higher education may once again allow veterans an opportunity to earn a college education in numbers not seen since the end of WWII. However, there is limited research that illuminates the needs of the neediest veterans (American Council on Education, 2008, 2010; Cook & Kim, 2009; DiRamio, Ackerman, & Mitchell, 2008; Radford, 2009; Steele, Salcedo, & Coley, 2010). This project strives to spatially understand where the most impoverished veterans are located and what educational and health opportunities are available to them.

Above is the area of focus for the project: Los Angeles County Congressional Districts.

Below Poverty and Disabled Areas

The layout below illustrates the districts with veterans that have incomes below the federal poverty level. Districts 31 and 34 have veteran populations with 14-15 percent of their incomes below the poverty level.

Similarly, district 34 and 28 have a high percentage of veterans that are living with some form of disability.

Both layouts show that veterans that live in high-Latino populations are more likely to have a disability and/or have incomes below the poverty level in the last 12 months. Interestingly, a high percentage of disadvantaged veterans are located mostly in Congressional District 34, which includes include the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, Downey, Bellflower, Vernon, East Los Angeles, and Walnut Park-Florence.  This may signal that even military veterans that have served the nation and earned top educational and health benefits may not be aware or accessing their earned benefits. Future studies should unpack this finding more by including in their analysis race/ethnicity and socioeconomic background variables.

Neediest Veterans Construct

The layout below shows a weighted construct of districts with a high percentage of disabled and poor veterans.  Each independent variable was given an equal .5 weight.  Additionally, cities within each district in Los Angeles were included to realize exactly what cities were included in each district.  As mentioned, most of the cities within Congressional District 34, the area with the neediest veterans, is largely comprised of Latinos/as.  In some areas, such as East Los Angeles and Maywood, the percentage of Latinos is well over 90 percent.  This leads us to conclude that there is disparate impact on the availability to resources to veterans, more than likely Latino veterans, particularly educational and health benefits.

Locations of RU/VHs to Impoverished Veterans

In an effort to spatially understand what resources are available to underserved veterans, the top research universities were located. Remarkably, because of the proximity of UCLA to the West LA VA Medical Center there exists an opportunity to educate veterans while having access to a VA hospital.  However, USC and Cal Tech are not located within close proximity of a major VA hospital. Nonetheless, the USC-LAC Medical Centers could use their existing medical resources located in East LA to capture many of the impoverished veterans living within district 34. Another option is to conduct a feasibility analysis for building a VA-specific medical facility.

Proximity of Neediest Veterans to RU/VH Institutions

The next logical question would be: how close, in minutes, are these resources to the neediest veterans?

The above layout illustrates how USC captures much of Congressional District 34. However, it is not known whether there is an equitable representation of the most disadvantaged veterans attending and graduating from USC. Another point to consider is whether Cal Tech and UCLA admits an equal share of district 34 veterans. Future institutional research should look at these three RU/VHs with the goal of measuring access, persistance, degree attainment, and labor market outcomes.

Proximity of Neediest Veterans to VAMC

The above layout demonstrates the proximity of veterans to the West LA and Long Beach VAMCs. Most district 34 veterans are about 30 minutes away from accessing these facilities. This may or may not be a factor considered by many but for the poorest and disabled veterans access could be limited given the significant distance and any transportation limitations. As mentioned before, USC and Cal Tech should consider establishing partnerships to serve disadvantaged veterans, similar to the relatiosnhip betwen UCLA and the West LA VA.

Estimated Time to RU/VH

Finally, the last layout illsutrates the estimated time from the center of Congressional Districts to each of three RU/VHs. It is interesting to note that even though district 34 is closer to USC it takes longer (30-40 minutes) to get there than districts that are farther in distance. There are no major routes to get to these institutions from this area, which effectively further disadvantages needy veterans.

Findings and Policy Implications

Where were the most underserved veterans and their proximity to education and health opportunities?
 In summary, most underserved veterans in Los Angeles County are located mostly in Congressional District 34, which includes include the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, Downey, Bellflower, Vernon, East Los Angeles, and Walnut Park-Florence.
Future studies should seek to answer the following questions:
•What services and/or programs, if any, might veterans need to successfully transition into RU/VH institutions?
•Are they providing access to impoverished veterans (social mobility)?
•Can the VA build a partnership with USC-LAC Medical Center to serve Congressional District 34?
•Is it feasible to build a VAMC in the region given the neediest veterans and the drawdown of servicemembers?
The use of GIS proved beneficial while attempting to spatially analyze data. Future studies should introduce detailed data at the institutional levels to better understand the opportunities that are (or not) offered to the most marginalized military veterans.
Methodologies Used
•Inset Map- Inset map of Los Angeles within California within the U.S.
•Geocoding- Geocoded the location of Research Universities with High Research Activity and VA Medical Centers
•Original Data- Original data of RU/VH and VAMC in Los Angeles County created as shapefiles
•Geoprocessing- Clipped Los Angeles boundary from Census Congressional District data
•Weighted Index- Used Field Calculator [(DisabledbyTotal * .5) + (Povertyby Total * .5)] * 100 to create an equally weighted construct
•Modeling- Created a model for use with Hotspot Analysis of proximity of RU/VH and VAMC to impoverished veterans
•Metadata- Metadata of original data for RU/VH institutions of higher learning
•Hotspot Analysis- Used to create neediest veterans construct by calculating areas with the most disabled and with income below the poverty level
•Images- Images of M1A2 Abrams tank, FA/18 Super Hornet Jet Fighter, CH/47 Chinook Helicopter, Navy Destroyer, and me during Operation Iraqi Freedom 1
•Network Analysis- OD Matrix to find the estimated time to nearest RU/VH
•Network Analysis- Shown for the Service Area of nearest RU/VH and VAMC
•Index- Created a weighted index of areas with the neediest veterans (Veteran Status + Income in the Past 12 Months Below Poverty Level + Living with a Disability (for the civilian population 18 years and over))
•Measurement Analysis- Measured distance by creating centroid of Congressional District by most impoverished veterans
Data Sources
• U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS)
• U.S. Census Bureau, 2008-2010 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates and 2010 Geography Division
• UCLA Spatial Data Repository, Mapshare
• Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
  • American Council on Education. (2008). Serving those who serve: Higher education and America’s veterans (Issue Brief). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.acenet.edu/Content/NavigationMenu/ProgramsServices/MilitaryPrograms/Veterans_Issue_Brief_1108.pdf
  • American Council on Education. (2010). Veteran success jam: Ensuring success for returning veterans. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=37400
  • Cohen, A. M., & Kisker, C. B. (2010). The shaping of American higher education: Emergence
    and growth of the contemporary system (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Cook, B. J. & Kim, Y. (2009). From soldier to student: Easing the transition of servicemembers on campus. (Research Report No. 311931). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
  • DiRamio, D., Ackerman, R., & Mitchell, R.L. (2008). From combat to campus: Voices of student veterans. NASPA Journal, 45(1), 73-102.
  • Greenberg, M. (1997). The G.I. Bill: The law that changed America. New York: Lickle Publishing.
  • Radford, W. A. (2009). Military service members and veterans in higher education: What the new GI Bill may mean for postsecondary institutions. (Research Report No. 311930). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
  • Steele, J.L., Salcedo, N., & Coley, J. (2010). Service members in school: Military veterans’ experiences using the Post 9/11 GI Bill and pursuing postsecondary education. (Research Report No. 312527). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2011a). Upcoming Changes To The Post-9/11 GI Bill. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/Post911_changes.html
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2011b). President Signed Improvements to Post-9/11 GI Bill. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2045