Research Basis

MEDIATION is a formal process to facilitate communication. It is “assistance to two or more interacting parties by a third party (the mediator) who does not have the power to prescribe or mandate agreements or outcomes (Kressel). Mediators are multi-partial; they do not take sides or make judgments. Self-determination ensures the parties in conflict reach their own solutions; mediators do not impose resolutions. The process is confidential under MA law; mediators do not divulge any information of a mediation. Mediation is voluntary.

The MA Trial Court has approved Quabbin Mediation (thus Veterans Mediation) to provide mediation services and mediation training. Mediation is less expensive than litigation. It is expeditious, yields enduring resolutions, can be cathartic and reduces stress for participants, and improves parties’ relationships; parties have control over the outcomes and a strong motivation to solve the problem; and mediation yields very high settlement rates up to 90% or more (Wall; Bleemer; Wiseman; Wissler).

Problem Statement

Veterans’ homelessness is a complex problem with a continuum of factors contributing to it.

Housing/Homelessness

Since 2001, 45,195 Massachusetts service members have returned to civilian life. A Massachusetts point-in-time count in 2011 showed 1,268 homeless veterans on a given night (down from 1,890 in 2009 and 1,597 in 2010). In 2015, 7.6% of the homeless population were veterans; 82% of them report having a disability. Many veterans are quite young. Nationally, veterans 18-30 years old are over-represented in the homeless population. In Boston, 3% of the homeless veterans were women, and women are an increasing segment of the homeless population. (Massachusetts Plan to End Homelessness Among Veterans, 2013-2015). With the increase in the number of women veterans and veterans of child bearing age, that percentage is expected to increase (National Center). HUD’s 2014 point-in-time count estimates that 10% of homeless veterans are women and that 4% of the homeless are veterans with children (Khadduri). But also, in 2009 and 2010, 51% of homeless veterans were 51 years old and older (VA, 2012).

The highest unmet needs for homeless or formerly homeless male and female veterans are 1) assistance preventing evictions or foreclosures and 2) child support. Incarceration is the highest risk factor for ever being homeless (Crone).

Relationships with Family and Children

The risk of homelessness is significantly higher when family relationships are contentious or antagonistic. According to the “Toolkit” provided to nurses in Massachusetts’ public schools to increase support to military children, 231,000 family members have lived through two or more deployments between 2001 and 2015 with 13,000 children statewide having a parent in the military. The longer the deployments, the greater the family instability, and children’s anxiety remains high after the deployed parent returns. Children of veterans, especially girls and teens 15-17, suffer behavioral and stress disorders, and their academic performance is negatively affected. After 2002, the likelihood of neglect of military children increased 42% (Ohye).

The divorce rate for active duty Army enlisted and officers nearly doubled from FY2000 to FY2003 (Defense Dept. Advisory Committee). Deployed divorced parents have trouble maintaining child custody and visitation with their children (Hoffman). Ninety-seven percent of divorces in the military occurred after a return from deployment. The risk of divorce was lower in families with children. Negative effects of deployment were largest among female military (Negrusa).

Unemployment

Without reliable employment, it is virtually impossible for veterans to maintain stable homes and families.

Trauma

While 20% of returning service members have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because of stigma, 50% do not seek help. Their children are at higher risk of depression, anxiety and may also develop PTSD symptoms (Galovski).

Evidence of Mediation Effectiveness

Veterans Mediation success over nine years, and numerous reports and studies, are evidence of the effectiveness of veterans employing the mediation process with veterans they serve, preventing homelessness and ancillary problems contributing to it.

Veterans Mediating for Veterans

Veterans providing services to their peers is far more effective compared to similar services provided by non-veterans showing 1) better engagement with services, 2) higher levels of empowerment, 3) a significant improvement in interpersonal relationships, and 4) higher levels of hopefulness (Cook; Jonikas).

Housing/Homelessness

The Massachusetts Steering Committee to End Veterans Homelessness recommends a focus on evidence-based practices (Massachusetts Plan); their Four Pillar framework is 1) Housing: stabilize tenancies; 2) Prevention: stabilize at-risk households; 3) Intervention: peer-to-peer engagement; and 4) Partnerships: ensure expedited service delivery, leverage local expertise, to have cross-sector trainings and improve veterans’ access to assistance. Veterans Mediation fits into all elements of this framework.

Mediation is one of four promising activities recommended by HUD for preventing veterans’ homelessness, characterizing mediation as one of the “elements that maximize resources.” One study cited in the HUD report showed mediation reduced the probability of veterans becoming homeless by 1/3; another showed mediation helped 69% of families retain housing (Burt). Mediation with landlords is recommended by the National Alliance to End Homelessness as a means of rapid re-housing (McDonald).A study of housing mediations involving land lords and tenants, poor housing conditions, neighbors, building owners, public and private agencies showed an agreement rate of up to 88% (McGillis).

Use of community-based services (such as mediation) for supporting the end of veterans homelessness is recommended by the VA in 2011 (Montgomery). Prevention and diversion assistance to prevent homelessness should include mediation provided within the community according to a 2015 update of the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness (US Interagency Council on Homelessness).

Family and Children

There is a long term positive effect of mediation on families (Emery) and a clear pattern of better adjustment for children when their parents cooperate through mediation (Pearson). Parent/child communication is the most helpful skill for veterans and their families (Ohye).

Employment

Getting and keeping a living wage job is essential for veterans’ housing self-sufficiency and family security. A 2005 US Air Force study showed that over 85% of work-based cases using mediation reached complete settlement.

Trauma

“Mindfulness practices” are helpful in managing PTSD and anxiety; these practices mirror mediation’s de-escalation, separating out facets of complex situations, self-determination, finding common ground, and reaching fair agreements (Vujanovic; Sereday). “Narrative Exposure Therapy” (NET) is an adaptation of “Prolonged Exposure Therapy,” effective for treating PTSD, TBI, anxiety, etc. (Ertl). NET does not require professional therapists for implementation, and is very similar to “narrative” or “transformative” mediation (Sereday) as practiced in Veterans Mediation. Many veterans with PTSD, an injury which requires medical attention, finally enter care because family members persist. Use of mediation to facilitate family communication can lead to success.

Evaluation

Tested measurement tools include: 1) written assessments by mediation trainees of the training and their own evaluation as to whether they are fully prepared to engage in providing mediation services; 2) written evaluations by the mediation trainers of the trainees’ abilities; 3) similar written assessments for the training for mediation trainers; 4) assessments for the mediators and the participants of the mediation process. In process is an online data collection tool for comprehensive evaluation of use and effectiveness of Veterans Mediation.

References

  1. Bleemer, R., The Rest of the Sept. 11 Cases, 2009, Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation.

  1. Burt, M., Pearson, C., Montgomery, E., Strategies for Preventing Homelessness, 2005, US HUD.

  1. Cook, J.A., Jonikas, J.A., Hamilton, M.M., Goldrick, V., Steigman, P.J., Grey, D.D., et. al., Impact of Wellness Recovery Action Planning on Service Utilization, 2013, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 36(4), 250-257.

  1. Crone, B., Breaking the Cycle of Veteran Incarceration and Homelessness, 2015, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, US Interagency Council on Homelessness, VA, www.nchv.org.

  1. Defense Dept. Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, 2005 Annual Report, http://dacowits.defense.gov

  1. Emery, R.E., Laumann-Billings, L., Waldron, M., Sbarra, D.A., & Dillon, P., 2001, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69:323-332.

  1. Ertl, V., Pfeiffer, A., Schauer, E., Elbert, T., & Neuner, F., Community-Implemented Trauma Therapy, 2011, JAMA 306(5): 503-512.

  1. Galovski, T. & Lyons, J., The psychological sequelae to exposure to combat violence: A review of the impact on the veteran’s family, 2004, Aggressive and Violent Behavior, 9, 477-501.

  1. Hoffman, K., 2005 Defense Manpower Data Center Report to Undersecretary of Defense for personnel and Readiness on Divorce in the Military.

  1. Interagency Supportive Housing Working Group, MA, Building on Success: State Action Plan, Year Two Status Report, December 2014.

  1. Jonikas, J.A., Copeland, M.E., Razzano, L.A., Cook, J.A., Improving propensity for patient self-advocacy, 2013, Community Mental Health Journal, 49(3), 260-269.

  1. Kressel, K. & Pruitt, D.G., Mediation Research, 1989, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

  1. Khadduri, J., Culhane, D., Part 1, Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, US HUD.

  1. Massachusetts Plan to End Homelessness Among Veterans, 2013-2015, Steering Committee to End Veterans Homelessness: US VA, US HUD, MA Dept. Veterans Services, MA DHCD, MA Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, Father Bills & MainSpring, MA Housing and Shelter Alliance, MA Veterans Service Officers Association, Technical Assistance Collab.

  1. McDonald, S., A Blueprint to End Family Homelessness, 2011, National Alliance to End Homelessness, www.naeh.org.

  1. McGillis, D., Neighborhood Justice Centers and the Mediation of Housing-Related Disputes, 1979, 17 Urban Law Annual 245.

  1. Montgomery, A.E., Housing Chronically Homeless Veterans, 2013, wiley.com/doi/10.1002.

  1. National Center for Homeless Education, Supporting School Success for Homeless Children of Veterans and Military Service Members, 2015, www.serve.org/nche.

  1. Negrusa, S., Negrusa, B, & Hosek, J., Journal of Population Economics 2014, V27-2, 473-496.

  1. Ohye, B., Rauch, P., Bostic, J., School Nurse Care Toolkit to Increase Awareness and Support to Military Children, 2015, Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

  1. Pearson, J., Thoeness, N., Divorce Mediation, an American Picture, in Divorce Mediation and the Legal Process, Dingwall & Eekelaar eds., 1988, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  1. Sereday, A., Optimizing Mediation for Veterans and their Families, 2014, Columbia University.

  1. US Interagency Council on Homelessness, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, 2015, USICH.gov/openingdoors.

  1. VA National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, Profile of Sheltered Homeless Veterans, 2012, www.va.gov.

  1. Vujanovic, Niles, Pietrefesa, Potter & Schmertz, The Potential of Mindfulness in Treating Trauma Reactions, 2015, www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/overview/mindful-PTSD.asp.

  1. Wall, J. & Dunne, T., Mediation Research: A Current Review, 2012, Negotiation Journal.

  1. Wiseman, E., Make the most of mediation in disputes, 2008, Personnel Today, July 1:9.

  1. Wissler, L.R., The Effectiveness of Court-Connected Dispute Resolution in Civil Cases, 2004, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 22 (1-2) 55-8