The Veteran Spouse Network (VSN) began in January 2016 as a forum for veteran spouses throughout Texas to become engaged in defining resources and programming for themselves and their families. Today, the VSN has grown to serve military and veteran spouses, partners, couples, caregivers, and family members throughout the state and across the country, with a growing network of over 3,000 participants. Through its growing programs and services, the network continues to work hands-on with our community to fill gaps in services and develop opportunities for participants to connect, share resources and offer ongoing peer-based support for spouses/partners.
After over 20 years of recent conflicts, the U.S. faces unprecedented challenges in caring for military service members and their families. Numerous programs address the mental and physical health needs of veterans, but few attend to the needs and experiences of their family members. In particular, necessary, effective supports for spouses are underdeveloped and not widely available.
Veteran families can face a diverse set of concerns including problems readjusting to civilian life, secondary effects of veterans’ posttraumatic stress disorder and other physical and mental health concerns, interpersonal struggles within the family, and parenting challenges due to prolonged separation, and transition challenges faced by children. Veteran spouses in particular, often bear the responsibility as formal or informal caregivers to veterans and many report that they would benefit from supports to address their individual needs. Supports for veteran spouses/partners are limited, or hard to find, often hidden behind or within veteran-centric supports. As a veteran spouse, it can easily feel like there is little to nothing out there designed with you in mind.
When the VSN launched in 2016, we asked veteran spouses what they wanted and needed, and the answer was overwhelming “peer support!” As our network grew, we heard from more military and veteran families that were similarly looking for community support. This ongoing feedback led us to expand and create new programs that serve the larger family unit. The VSN works to fill the gaps in supports and services, focusing on military and veteran spouses/partners, couples, family members, and individuals divorced or widowed from a service member or veteran, emphasizing peer-to-peer opportunities. When we address the needs and challenges of those family members, we help strengthen the entire family.
We believe that when a service member serves, their family serves alongside them, and when they leave service, the whole family benefits from tailored transition supports.
We believe that meeting individual needs is paramount to the overall health of a family unit.
We believe that military and veteran families thrive when they are a part of strong supportive communities that offer peer-based support and guidance.
We believe that military and veteran spouses/partners have an innate resilience and resourcefulness that allows them to be fierce advocates for their veterans‘ and families’.
We believe that military and veteran family members are uniquely poised to provide support for the prevention of military and veteran suicide.
We believe that veterans’ health and wellness are greatly impacted by the quality of relationships in their families.
We believe that military and veteran spouses, partners, and family members know what their families need, and should be involved in creating supports designed for those needs.
Support for Spouses/Partners
At the Veteran Spouse Network, our programs offer peer-based support and guidance for military and veteran spouses and families as they navigate active-duty life, transition to civilian life, and put down roots post-service. All VSN programs prioritize a strong community of support, offering peer-based guidance and understanding. Our programs are designed based on the stated needs of our network. The majority of programs are facilitated by peer leaders who are ingrained in the military and/or veteran community. We believe that spouses/partners not only benefit from the opportunity to connect with and receive support from their peers, but also when they are able to give back, providing support as peer leaders.
Diversity & Inclusion
At the Veteran Spouse Network, our values are based on ensuring equity and inclusion for our diverse population. We are committed to serving our communities with integrity, competence, and respect for the dignity and worth of all people. We strive to create safe and inclusive spaces for our participants to connect and receive support while providing an experience in which all people feel they are equally respected and valued. We embrace and celebrate each individual’s gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, age, and ability. As part of our commitment to creating a positive and inclusive group environment, we expect all staff and volunteers to adhere to our core values, which include treating everyone with respect. We prohibit any conduct that results in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive group or work environment.
This network is housed within The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Military & Veteran Family Wellness. In line with the mission of the school, the Institute works to provide national leadership to promote social and economic justice, alleviate critical social problems, and enhance human well-being.