Former President George W. Bush speaks Feb. 19 in Dallas during a summit titled 'Empowering Our Nation's Warriors.' (LM Otero/The Associated Press)
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Researchers at the George W. Bush Institute in Texas want to know which military advocacy and assistance groups are truly helping veterans.
An analysis of the success and significance of the groups, to be conducted in the coming months, was one of several initiatives touted Wednesday by the institute and its namesake at a summit on veterans’ transition issues.
Former President George W. Bush, in a rare public appearance, said the goal of all the efforts is to not only highlight the challenges facing separating service members, but also to offer communities ideas on how they can help.
“Our country can never fully repay our veterans, but we ought to try,” he told a crowd of business leaders and veterans activists.
The analysis of veterans groups isn’t designed to single out winners and losers, Bush said, but instead to provide best practices and clearer goals to an already-crowded array of resources. Today, more than 46,000 community organizations across the country have a mission at least partly related to serving veterans.
“That’s a great testament to our country’s overwhelming support for our veterans, but it can be overwhelming for veterans looking for help,” he said. “While these veterans have good intentions, I suspect some deliver better results than others.”
Final results of the study are expected this fall. Researchers from Syracuse University’s Institute of Veterans and Military Families are expected to assist with the work.
This spring, the Bush Institute is expected to release the results of research on the post-9/11 veteran population, detailing their demographics, employment characteristics and feelings about the civilian/military divide in America today. IVMF officials also took part in that effort.
Currently, there are about 2.5 million veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan era, 80 percent of whom spent some time in an overseas combat zone.
White House officials have pushed similar assistance and awareness efforts for veterans, military personnel and their families through the three-year-old Joining Forces campaign — work that was highlighted at Wednesday’s summit by Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
But Bush said too many Americans see all veterans as “either a hero or someone to be pitied,” and that more work needs to be done to educate Americans about military service.