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Serving Veterans After

Hurricane Harvey

Combined Arms | November 2019 1

Serving Veterans After
Hurricane Harvey
November 2019

This project was a collaboration between Combined Arms and Contributors

January Advisors to understand the impact of Hurricane Harvey Combined Arms
on the veteran population of Houston and the Gulf Coast
John Boerstler
region, and the response by social service providers.
Kevin Doffing
It was made possible by generous funding from the Bob Mike Hutchings
Woodruff Foundation.
Monique N. Rodriguez, LMSW
We would also like to thank United Way of Greater Houston’s Brian Wilson
2-1-1 Call Center for sharing their data with us for this project. Rey Mendez
Alan Nguyen
Combined Arms is a nonprofit that connects transitioning
veterans with services, community and purpose to accelerate January Advisors
their impact in Houston, Texas. They’ve created a new veteran
David McClendon, Ph.D.
service model, focusing on collective impact—reinventing what
it means to serve veterans by creating pathways for them to Ben Herndon-Miller
access resources based on exactly what they’ve asked for, Jeff Reichman
leaving the outdated model of “services in silos” behind. Carly Sessions
Neeraj Tandon
January Advisors is a Houston-based data science consulting
group that specializes in helping nonprofit and public-sector
clients organize, analyze, visualize, and communicate their data
to increase their impact.
Over the course of four days in late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey dropped an unprecedented 60 inches of
rain on southeast Texas, causing over $125 billion in damage to the Gulf Coast.

Texas is home to 1.46 million veterans, and many felt the direct impact of the storm. Some veterans faced
many of the same challenges as the civilian population, such as temporary housing displacement. Other
veterans were more vulnerable to the storm’s impact, as they were already experiencing homelessness or
struggling with mental illness.

Groups like Combined Arms, Team Rubicon, the Wounded Warrior Project and others came together to serve
veterans in need of assistance after Harvey. They also brought together volunteers, showcasing the resiliency
of the veteran community along the Gulf Coast.

Two years later, despite countless reports and analyses of the storm’s impact on the region, we still needed
to answer some basic questions about the veteran population: how were they affected by Hurricane Harvey,
and how are they recovering? This report takes a data-driven approach to understanding the impact of
Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast veteran population, with a specific focus on post-9/11 veterans.

This report examines four key questions about veterans after Hurricane Harvey:

1. How many veterans were affected by the storm?

2. What did veterans need post-Harvey?

3. Who provided disaster services to veterans, and how well were they served?

4. How has the recovery process been for veterans and what needs remain?

At a high level, we estimate that at least 98,000 veterans along the Gulf Coast were affected by Hurricane
Harvey, including 18,000 post-9/11 veterans who applied for disaster assistance. Other key findings from
this report include:

Among veterans surveyed in the Combined Arms network, nearly 60% sustained damage to their homes
and belongings. Two years later, 33% reported still needing home repair services or support.

In Greater Houston, veterans requested similar kinds of social services as the civilian population through
United Way’s 2-1-1 call center. But an outsized share of veterans, especially older veterans, made
requests for disaster case management.

88% of veterans surveyed by Combined Arms immediately after Harvey reported they did not have flood
insurance. Two years later, 66% of veterans surveyed still lacked flood insurance.

Nearly 3-in-4 post-9/11 veterans (73%) said they volunteered after Hurricane Harvey, and roughly half
(49%) volunteered with at least one organization for the first time.

We close the report with lessons learned and policy recommendations on how to better serve veterans after
future hurricane and flood events.

4 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

Data Sources
We drew on several sources of data collected during and after the storm to understand Hurricane Harvey’s
impact on the veteran population. For this report, post-9/11 veterans are defined as veterans who left the
service after 9/11/2001, consistent with how the Census Bureau defines era served by veterans.

The widest angle to view Hurricane Harvey’s impact on veterans is data from
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the number of
registrations for individual assistance by age and zip code. Unlike most
other data sources that focus exclusively on the Greater Houston area, the
FEMA data covers the entire Gulf Coast region. However, these data do not
contain veteran status. To estimate the number of veterans who registered
with FEMA, we used data on the number of adults from the American
Community Survey (2013-2017) to calculate the share of adults who applied for FEMA individual assistance in
each zip code. We then applied that percentage to the number of veterans (and post-9/11 veterans) from the
American Community Survey to estimate the number of veterans who applied for FEMA assistance in each
zip code. This method assumes veterans in a given zip code were equally as likely as other residents to be
impacted by Harvey and apply for FEMA assistance.

United Way of Greater Houston generously provided 2-1-1 call data for
this project. These data represent over 100,000 anonymized calls from the
public for information to 2-1-1 during and after Hurricane Harvey (August
25, 2017 to November 30, 2017). The data include each caller’s veteran
status (veteran, civilian, currently serving in the military), age, gender, and
zip code of residence, as well as information on the needs and services they
are seeking information about. Although this is a rich source of data about
veterans’ needs after Harvey, 2-1-1 staff were unable to verify the veteran status of approximately one-third
of calls, and the status does not indicate the era of service. As a proxy for post-9/11 veterans, we split 2-1-
1 callers who were verified veterans into two groups based on age: younger veterans (< age 50) and older
veterans (age 50+).

Combined Arms (CAX) was our third source of data for the project.
Combined Arms provided three types of data:

1. Client data about requests and receipt of services

2. 2017 Combined Arms Hurricane Harvey Assessment survey

3. 2019 Combined Arms Hurricane Harvey Recovery survey

Data on CAX clients’ requests and receipt of services was recorded in CAX’s coordinated care management

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Combined Arms surveyed 195 existing and incoming clients about
how Hurricane Harvey affected their lives. The survey was available as a voluntary assessment module in the
CAX coordinated care system for interested veterans. It asked questions about the status of the veteran’s
residence, disaster-related needs (e.g., food and financial assistance), as well as whether they had accessed
FEMA aid or had flood insurance.

In July 2019, almost two years after Hurricane Harvey, Combined Arms conducted another survey to gauge
the recovery process for veterans and ask additional questions related to resilience and volunteerism.

Combined Arms | November 2019 5

Harvey’s Impact on Veterans
How many veterans and post-9/11 veterans were affected by Hurricane Harvey? Data from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provide the most insight about which veterans experienced damage
from the storm. Across the entire 60-county Gulf Coast region under disaster declaration, an estimated
98,200 veterans applied to FEMA for Individual Assistance aid. Of those, approximately 18,100 were post-9/11

Putting these numbers in context, there were approximately 1.5 million valid registrations for individual
assistance aid connected to Hurricane Harvey. An estimated 6.5% of those requests were from veterans,
which is in line with the veteran share of total population in the region estimated by the Census Bureau in
2017 (7.4%).

The majority of veterans who applied for FEMA Individual Assistance were living in the Greater Houston area
(the 13 county area surrounding Harris County). In Harris County alone, the most populous county in the
Greater Houston region, some 36,000 veterans and 7,500 post-9/11 veterans applied for FEMA Individual

In Greater Houston, veterans were at greater risk of being affected by Hurricane Harvey than the general
population. An estimated 31% of all veterans and 29% of post-9/11 veterans applied for FEMA
Individual Assistance compared with 22% of Greater Houston residents. This difference is due entirely to
the zip codes where veterans lived. Compared with the civilian population, veterans in Greater Houston were
more likely to live in zip codes that experienced outsized damage from the storm.

These figures are best estimates, as there are an unknown number of people and families along the Gulf
Coast that were affected by the storm but did not apply for FEMA assistance. For example, many veterans
who were homeless before the storm may not be represented by the FEMA data. Nevertheless, we use FEMA
Individual Assistance data as a conservative, lower-bound estimate of how many veterans and post-9/11
veterans were likely affected by Hurricane Harvey.

6 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

Map of estimated fema individual assistance
applications by post-9/11 veterans
during hurricane harvey.
By zipcode with county overlay.



San Antonio




<20 post-9/11 veterans


50-99 Corpus Christi





Sources: Estimates based on number of valid adult registrations for FEMA

individual assistance by zip code and American Community Survey
2013-2017 estimates of number of veterans by era served. Bay City Freeport


Nearly 100,000 veterans across the Gulf

Coast were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
18,000 were post-9/11 veterans.

36,365 Pre-9/11 veterans Post-9/11 veterans

In Harris County, an estimated 36,000 veterans,
including 7,500 post-9/11 veterans, applied for
30,000 FEMA individual assistance after Hurricane Harvey.


10,000 8,379 7,915

6,660 5,759 5,463
3,901 2,899 2,750 2,618 2,606
1,559 1,557 1,402 821































Combined Arms | November 2019 7

Veterans’ Social Services Needs
After Harvey
In the hours, weeks, and months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the number and type of social services
needs of veterans changed. Two data sources – United Way of Greater Houston’s 2-1-1 call center data
and Combined Arms client survey data – offer an in-depth look into these changes for veterans living in the
Greater Houston area.

United Way 2-1-1 calls

Between August 25, 2017 and November 30, 2017, over 100,000 callers reached out to United Way of
Greater Houston’s 2-1-1 call center for disaster-related needs and information. Of those, 2,042 callers were
self-identified as veterans. The majority (66%) were over the age of 50, while 695 were younger than 50.

In the first few weeks after the storm, veterans were calling 2-1-1 for the same things as the general
population: disaster food stamps, assistance with FEMA online registration, disaster unemployment
assistance, mass care shelters, and information on relief and recovery organizations. Younger veterans, in
particular, called in the same disaster-related needs at similar rates as the civilian population.

During the recovery phase of Harvey, many services required a referral from a case manager, often
specifically through 2-1-1. It is unsurprising, then, that the top need for veterans after Harvey was disaster-
related case management. A case manager’s role is navigating the remainder of services and resources
available during this time period.

Calls to 2-1-1 for case management referrals came a full month after the storm in early October, as the
recovery phase ramped up. They primarily came from older veterans (over age 50). 254 older veterans and
101 younger veterans requested disaster-related case management from 2-1-1.

8 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

Calls for Help
Disaster-related calls to United Way 2-1-1 from self-identified veterans by age, 8/25/17 - 11/30/17
TOtal calls
300 calls 309 calls from veterans with
8/25 - 11/30
disaster-related needs to 2-1-1
the week after of hurricane harvey. 1,347

Post-disaster spike driven by calls for
200 case management and food stamps,
particularly among older veterans.
Veterans over 50


Veterans Under 50

Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017
Number of calls each week

top disaster needs for veterans

Disaster Related Case Management FEMA Disaster Assistance Online Disaster Food Stamps
100 calls 93
254 199 144
75 70
101 105 116

50 50


0 Sep Oct Nov Sep Oct Nov Sep Oct Nov

Disaster Unemployment Assistance Mass Care Shelters Disaster Relief/Recovery Organizations
51 65 55
73 42 31

50 49

25 23

Sep Oct Nov Sep Oct Nov Sep Oct Nov
Post Disaster Points of Distribution Disaster Recovery Centers Disaster Loans
50 54 36
38 27 25


25 23
12 23
Sep Oct Nov Sep Oct Nov Sep Oct Nov

Note: Data provided by United Way of Greater Houston. Some calls include multiple needs and requests for services. Data on veterans’
service era was not collected. During this time period, veteran status was unknown for 34% of callers.

Combined Arms | November 2019 9

Combined arms helped nearly 700 veterans
affected by hurricane harvey
Number of clients impacted by Harvey based on self-reports by veterans and requests for disaster-related services

= 5 veterans
128 additional veterans,
330 Post-9/11 veterans service era unknown

228 Pre-9/11 veterans

what were their needs?

In the weeks after the storm, Combined Arms surveyed 195 existing and incoming clients to better understand Hurricane
Harvey’s impact on their lives and gauge the level of need for assistance and services.

60% 59% 57%

54% Over half of veterans surveyed said their All veterans Post-9/11 veterans
49% home was damaged or they needed food
for their family.


27% 25%
20% 17% 16% 15% 14%
10% 9% 10%

Residence is Need food Need Need donated Need to apply Connection to Need help Need short−term,
damaged* for family long−term clothing for disaster VA healthcare cleaning out emergency
housing unemployment needed house shelter

Have you applied for FEMA aid yet? Do you have flood insurance?
No need: 2%

No An overwhelming majority of 12%
17% veterans surveyed had already
applied for FEMA aid.
Yes No
81% At the same time, equal 88%
numbers reported lacking
flood insurance.

Note: Harvey needs assessment was voluntarily taken by 195 Combined Arms clients. An additional 215 clients answered the question
about damage to their residence. Not all veterans reported era of service.
10 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey
Combined Arms post-Harvey survey
In the weeks after Hurricane Harvey, Combined Arms surveyed nearly 200 existing and incoming clients to
better understand their social service needs. Housing was the primary concern. Nearly 6-in-10 respondents
reported that their residence sustained minor or major damage during Harvey, including half of post-9/11
veterans. Twenty-seven percent of respondents were in need of long-term housing and around 10% needed
short-term, emergency shelter (at the time of the survey).

Food and clothing were other top concerns. Fifty-seven percent of veteran respondents said they needed
food for their family after the storm. Around 1-in-4 respondents said they needed donated clothing. Smaller
shares of respondents said they need help applying for disaster unemployment (17%), connecting to VA
healthcare (15%), and cleaning out their homes (14%).

The vast majority of veterans who responded to Combined Arms post-Harvey survey – approximately 8-in-10
– reported that they had already applied to FEMA for disaster-related aid.

But one area of concern is that nearly all of the respondents (88%) reported that they did not have flood

“Due to lack of Flood Insurance, the repairs to my house, property loss, and vehicle
damage significantly impacted my savings. Prior to the flood, my home and car were
completely paid for (debt free).” - Veteran respondent to CAX 2019 survey

Combined Arms | November 2019 11

Serving Veterans After Harvey
The non-profits and social service providers who serve veterans in the Houston-area increased their services
and availability significantly in the weeks after the storm. Combined Arms, along with other local organizations
like Team Rubicon and Lone Star Veterans Association, served as a hub for veterans seeking help and those
wanting to help others.

In total, Combined Arms served at least 686 veterans who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. These veterans
were identified either through the post-Harvey survey or by the types of services they requested (e.g.,
disaster-related financial assistance). Many more CAX clients may have been affected by the storm, but did
not seek services directly.

Almost half (330) of Harvey victims served by CAX were post-9/11 veterans. An additional 228 were veterans
who ended their service before 9/11, and the remaining 128 veterans did not report the era in which they
served1. On the whole, Combined Arms clients affected by Harvey were much younger than veterans who
called 2-1-1 for help.

In fact, 37% of Harvey-affected clients, and 59% of post-9/11 clients, were under the age of 40. The large
majority of Harvey-affected clients were men, but a substantial minority – 26% – were women. Most of these
veterans were living with children (57%). (For a full demographic breakdown, see Appendix.)

Harvey-affected veterans who went to Combined Arms also had relatively high levels of education. Most had
at least some college experience, with 23% having earned an Associate’s degree or technical certification and
32% having earned at least a Bachelor’s degree.

Unfortunately, data on race-ethnicity of Combined Arms clients was largely unknown due to missing data on
60% of Harvey-affected clients. These fields were optional for clients and many chose not to fill them out.

Requests for services

What kinds of services were these veterans looking for after Harvey? In the three months following the storm,
the top category of service requests was Harvey Relief Services. These included disaster financial relief (168
requests), food relief (94 requests), clothing assistance (52 requests), furniture assistance (38 requests), and
trauma support counseling (19 requests), among many others.

But the range of services requested by veterans went well beyond the traditional needs after a natural
disaster. Many veterans were also looking for career assistance, financial help, volunteer engagement,
homelessness assistance, and veteran benefits assistance.

There were important age differences in types of service requests. Post-9/11 veterans affected by Harvey
were actually much more likely to request Career Services than Harvey Relief Services – 198 requests vs. 109
requests.2 That means many post-9/11 veterans who reported being affected by Harvey did not seek Harvey
Relief Services through Combined Arms.

This could be because more post-9/11 veterans had already received disaster assistance from another
organization, or because the impact of the storm on their lives and livelihood was not as severe. Either way,
the high degree of need for career services among this population in the wake of a disaster underscores the
longer-term issues facing veterans around job training and career readiness.

1 Many of the veterans that did not identify their time of service were new, one-time clients who did not complete profiles in the CAX system of
2 Veterans can make multiple service requests through the CAX system.

12 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

reaching out for help
Combined Arms service requests by Harvey-affected veterans, 8/25/2017 - 11/30/2017
Post-9/11 Pre-9/11 Era unknown Post-9/11 Pre-9/11 Era unknown
Harvey Relief Services 109 343 CAX External Referrals 112 249
Disabled American Veterans 16 144
Career Services 198 post-9/11 vet requests 246 total requests
Lone Star Veterans Association 82 105
Financial Assistance 75 169 Wounded Warrior Project 86 96
Workshops 96 114 Career Gear Houston 54 82
The largest number of
Volunteer Engagement 79 89 The Mission Continues 55 61 Harvey-affected vets coming
While the most services were NextOp 60 60 through Combined Arms were
Social Life 64 76 requested for Harvey Relief served by providers outside the
Career & Recovery Resources, Inc. 26 47
Services, the top request for CAX system.
Mental Wellness 57 75 Travis Manion Foundation 39 45
Harvey-affected post-9/11 vets
Homeless Assistance 43 75 was Career Services. US Veterans Initiative 30 41 Disabled American Veterans,
Hope For The Warriors Lone Star Veterans and
Legal Assistance 26 49 27 37
Wounded Warrior Project were
Lone Star Legal Aid 18 33 the three largest providers.
Education Services 40 43
Grace After Fire 11 33
Veteran Benefits 26 35 Easter Seals of Greater Houston 16 31
0 100 200 300 0 50 100 150 200 250
Number of service requests Number of service requests

Service Requests over time

250 requests
Immediately after the storm, Disabled American Veterans
held a financial assistance drive at Combined Arms, which
Era served over a hundred veterans in one day.
200 unknown
The peak of services requests from
post-9/11 veterans, however, came a week
150 Pre-9/11 later, with requests for Harvey Relief,
Career Services, and Financial Assistance.


50 Post-9/11

Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017

how quickly were Needs met?

Percent of service requests completed/closed by time and era of service 72%
Post-9/11 veterans Pre-9/11 veterans Service era unknown
60 Nearly half of service requests from post-9/11
vets were completed within a month... Most pre-9/11 vets and others were
served quickly through the Disabled
Other requests for things like Career American Veterans financial
40 Services took longer or are ongoing. 39% assistance drive at CAX headquarters.
23% 25%
20 15%
13% 14%
10% 9% 9% 8% 9%
5% 6% 6% 6%









































Combined Arms | November 2019 13

Service providers
Through the Combined Arms system, as many as 40 different organizations in the CAX network fielded over
1,300 service requests from Harvey-affected veterans in the three months following the storm.

Combined Arms external referrals, which includes referrals made to organizations outside the CAX provider
network, fielded the most service requests, and addressed a range of needs through additional service
providers like Houston Food Bank.

Disabled American Veterans was the single largest provider of services during this period, largely because of
a disaster financial assistance drive they held at Combined Arms headquarters during the second week of
September 2017. At that event, 144 veterans received assistance.

Other top providers include stalwarts of the Combined Arms provider network, such as Lone Star Veterans
Association (105 service requests), Wounded Warrior Project (96), Career Gear Houston (88), The Mission
Continues (61), and NextOp (60).

Most veterans were served quickly by Combined Arms’ partner providers. Over half of all service requests
during this period were addressed and closed within two weeks. A large share of cases – over 26% – were
closed on the same day (most of these cases were through Disabled American Veterans’ financial assistance
drive). Other social service requests took longer to tackle, such as those for career and education assistance.
Overall, the vast majority of service requests by Harvey victims in the Combined Arms network (82%) were
addressed within three months.

Two Years After Harvey

For many residents of the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Harvey’s effects are still being felt today.

Combined Arms wanted to get a better sense of how veterans in the Greater Houston area are doing two
years after Harvey – how the recovery process is going, how many are still in need of services, and what
services and assistance is still needed. In July 2019, Combined Arms reached out to 1,924 veterans in their
system who had either identified themselves as Harvey victims, accessed Harvey Relief Services, or had
entered as a new client in three months following the storm. The survey was also posted on social media for
non-CAX clients.

A total of 107 veterans completed the 15-question survey. The survey asked about veterans’ experiences
during Harvey, their current recovery status in terms of housing, belongings, income, and health,
volunteerism after Harvey, and resiliency. The full survey can be found in the Appendix.

The majority of respondents (66%) agreed that “life was back to normal” two years after Harvey. But
approximately one third of respondents did not agree. 16% of respondents disagreed, and 18% strongly
disagreed that “life was back to normal.”

Home repair was the top area of continued need and support. Of all veterans surveyed, 59% reported that
they experienced some amount of damage to their home or apartment during Harvey. Two years later,
44% of those veterans who experienced home damage still had unfinished repair work that needed to be
completed. One-in-five (21%) were living in homes that still needed major repair work, while an additional 4%
were living in another temporary residence while awaiting major repair work.

Meanwhile, 36% of veterans surveyed whose homes were damaged during Harvey had permanently moved
to a new residence.

14 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

Recovery and resilience
Two years after Hurricane Harvey, Combined Arms surveyed 107 veterans, including 55 post-9/11 veterans, about
their experiences and road to recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

If you experienced home damage, what is the

current status of the home or apartment you Are you still in need of services or support in
were living in before the storm? the following areas?
Remains damaged,
living elsewhere not there 33%
Home repair
major Car 29%
Major repair 36% Furniture assistance
minor 26%
work needed;
living there
moved to new 16%
Minor repair Clothing assistance 15%
work needed; moved
living there 20% 14%
Mental health
Repaired and
living there
Legal assistance 10%

34% of respondents said life was not back

to normal since hurricane harvey.

I do not have flood I do not have flood I have flood

insurance and did insurance but did insurance now and
not before Harvey. before Harvey. did before Harvey
flood insurance
When it comes to flood insurance, which of 46% 11% 20% 23%
the following applies to you?
I have flood insurance but
did not before Harvey.

Yes, and with at least one

volunteerism No, I didn’t volunteer. organization for the first time
In the days after Hurricane Harvey, did you
volunteer to help family members, friends, or 38% 23% 38%
other people who you might know through
clubs, churches or organizations? Yes, I volunteered with an
organization I had volunteered
with before the storm

Created a hurricane
semper paratus preparedness kit/plan 45%
Have you done any of the following since Became civically engaged
Hurricane Harvey? on flooding issues
Moved to an area with
lower flooding risk

Combined Arms | November 2019 15

In their own words...
Open-ended responses to Combined Arms 2019 Harvey survey by veterans affected by Hurricane Harvey

I was trapped in my rental home in Bayou Vista for 3 days by flood waters. As soon as I was
able to leave I went to Rockport for 8 days with Team Rubicon to help with disaster recovery.

It was the number one incident that I have been through (over getting blown up and
suffer a TBI in the military) I have ever experienced and still haven't recovered from.

I'm a disabled veteran and tattoo artist. Tattooing is the only thing I can do for work due
to my disability. Work has dropped in half if that. It's never gotten back to normal.

Still waiting on money for car repair.

My disability retirement from the Navy has gotten worse. Had to move what I could
out of my flood house into storage. Then about 8 months later move into new home.

My family have anxiety now every time it rains heavily, we are still struggling
to get on our feet, we lost and are trying to get things back together. My
daughter just left to the service.

Combined Arms helped me when I needed other most thank you for helping
myself in a time of need. I will always be grateful to you all.

I wish that it never happened, because I would own

my car and not have a payment anymore.

Due to lack of Flood Insurance, the repairs to my house, property loss, and vehicle damage significantly
impacted my savings. Prior to the flood, my home and car were completely paid for (debt free).

Nearly 3 years out since the storm and my wife passed away and
my family has been torn to pieces and lost everything. Amd we still
live in a seriously 23 grand in damage home.

The long term help is not present. I have a hard time getting the help I need.
Money does not solve everything, Need help of others time.

I had to medically withdraw from school. I have a 2000 hold on my account. If I can get help to
satisfy this, then i will be in a better situation. I am in dire need to get back into a vehicle.

After coming from New Orleans enduring Hurricane Katrina then having
to live through Harvey just has put a lot of unwanted stress in my life.

When you lose everything and can't get to the places you need to,... telling me where places are is fine,
if I can't get there... is frustrating. Or maybe turning me away when I get there hurts worst.

There was a lot of confusion when it and to rights of renters. We did not receive
all of our deposit back from our landlord after we became homeless.

16 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

Over half of veterans surveyed also said some of their belongings, including furniture and clothes, were
damaged during Harvey. Two years later, 26% of all veterans surveyed reported still needing furniture
assistance, and 15% needed clothing assistance.

Transportation was another key area of need. Approximately 35% of respondents reported that they or a
member of their household had a vehicle damaged or lost during Harvey. Of those, 41% had their vehicle
replaced and 30% had it repaired. But 29% of veteran respondents whose car was damaged during the storm
had not replaced it by 2019 and were still in need of one.

A surprisingly large share of veterans – some 40% – reported that they lost income as a result of Hurricane
Harvey. Two years later, nearly two-thirds (63%) had seen their income return to what it was before the storm.

Far fewer veterans reported any sickness (15%), injuries (1%), or hospitalizations (1%) as a result of Hurricane
Harvey. Of those who reported any health issues, two-thirds (67%) said their health was back to normal two
years later. In addition, more than 1-in-8 respondents (14%) reported that they were still in need of mental
health services.

As with many other vulnerable populations in the Houston area, it’s clear that the recovery from Hurricane
Harvey has been uneven for veterans. But even among veterans, there is important variation by age: Post-
9/11 veterans in the survey were much more likely to say life was back to normal than older veterans who
served in previous eras. Seventy-seven percent of post-9/11 veterans reported life was back to normal after
Harvey compared with 54% of pre-9/11 veterans.

The survey also revealed how many veterans stepped up to help their community after Hurricane Harvey. The
majority (61%) of veterans surveyed reported that they volunteered to help family members, friends, or other
people through clubs, churches, and other organizations. Thirty-eight percent volunteered with at least one
organization for the first time.

Post-9/11 veterans, likely due in part to their age, were even more likely to have volunteered. Nearly 3-in-4
post-9/11 veterans (73%) said they volunteered after Hurricane Harvey, and roughly half (49%)
volunteered with at least one organization for the first time.

While Hurricane Harvey brought the community together, the storm also exposed the ways in which
Houston’s veterans were not and are still not prepared for natural disasters. For instance, even two years
after the storm, more than half of veterans surveyed (57%) do not have flood insurance. Only 20% of
respondents got flood insurance after not having it during Harvey. This pattern was similar for post- and pre-
9/11 veterans.

But many veterans have taken other actions in response to Hurricane Harvey. Some 45% of respondents
reported that they had created a hurricane preparedness kit and/or hurricane plan since Hurricane Harvey.
This was especially true of post-9/11 veterans (62%), who also may have been less likely to have made such
preparations before Harvey.

More than 1-in-5 (22%) of veterans surveyed said they had moved to an area that is not on a flood plain or
has a lower risk of flooding since Harvey. Again, a larger share of post-9/11 veterans (31%) reported having
done this.

A similar share of veterans (23%) said that since Harvey they had become civically engaged on flooding
issues, including attending a town hall, talking to a government official or representative, or voting on a bond
proposal. Post- and pre-9/11 veterans reported similar rates of civic engagement.

Combined Arms | November 2019 17

Policy Recommendations
The findings from this report point to a number of lessons and policy recommendations for serving veterans
in future natural and man-made disasters.

1. Collect data on veteran status. One key challenge in writing this report
was locating data sources that asked about veteran status of people in
need, those accessing services, and those answering surveys after Hurricane
Harvey. In order to understand the wider impact on veterans outside of
the Greater Houston area, we had to estimate veteran status from FEMA’s
individual assistance data, which did not distinguish between veterans and
civilians.3 There are several post-Harvey surveys administered by Houston-area
researchers as well as social service nonprofits that did not ask about veteran
status. This lack of data makes it more difficult for researchers to understand
the impact of the disaster on veterans, and how governments and nonprofits
should respond to help. Additionally, if social service referral providers ask
about veteran status, they can provide veteran-specific resources and aid.

2. Sign veterans up for flood insurance. A key finding from this study is
that very few veterans had flood insurance before Harvey4. Flood insurance
mitigates the financial impact of storm damage and helps people recover more
quickly. Nonprofits and social workers who serve veterans should ask them if
they have flood insurance and be trained to assist veterans in signing up for
the National Flood Insurance Program.

3. Increase funding for tech-driven coordinated care. A broader lesson

from Hurricane Harvey is that navigating the social safety net after the storm
was burdensome for many people and families, leaving many without the
help they needed. Disaster cases often have multiple social service needs.
After Harvey, veterans seeking help had to access services through a variety
of service providers, many of whom had separate intake forms, different
income requirements, and few ways to coordinate with other service providers.
Combined Arms and its partner organizations were able to maximize their
impact by having a technology platform in place that allowed veterans to
access services through multiple service providers who could coordinate care.
It also allows funders to see the impact of their investment in terms of clients
served across a range of social service needs.

4. When disaster strikes, existing needs don’t go away. Many Harvey-

affected, post-9/11 veterans in this study were looking for help with their
careers, education, and finances – not just disaster-related assistance.
Many of these needs pre-dated Hurricane Harvey, but were able to be
addressed because of other social services needs created by the disaster. This
underscores the benefits and importance of coordinated care among those
serving veteran populations.

3 This data was collected by FEMA but not made available.

4 The rates of flood insurance coverage for veterans is similar to the civilian population.

18 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

Data Dashboard
Want to dive in and explore the data yourself? You can visit the data dashboard we built to accompany this
report at

Combined Arms | November 2019 19

Demographics of Combined Arms clients affected by Hurricane Harvey
Note: ‘All veterans’ category includes 128 veterans whose service era was unknown.

20 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

2019 Combined Arms Hurricane Harvey Recovery survey
Below are the survey questions from Combined Arms’ 2019 Hurricane Harvey Recovery survey, administered
during July and August 2019.

Thank you for taking the time to fill out the CAX Hurricane Harvey Recovery Survey. Combined Arms wants to
hear from you to learn more about veterans’ experiences of Hurricane Harvey and the recovery process. The
survey should take approximately 5-10 minutes. Thank you!

1. Please enter your email address to begin the survey: _____________

2. Which of the following applies to you? (Select one)

a. I am a post-9/11 veteran

b. I am a veteran who served before 9/11

c. I am currently serving in the military

d. None of the above

If 2d == “None of the above,” tell them thanks but don’t let them fill out the survey.

3. Which of the following (if any) happened to you as a result of Hurricane Harvey? Choose as many as

a. The home or apartment I was living in at the time was damaged or lost.

b. One or more vehicles owned by me or a member of my household was damaged or lost.

c. Some of my belongings, including furniture or clothing, were damaged or lost.

d. I lost income.

e. I applied for disaster unemployment assistance.

f. I was injured.

g. I became ill.

h. I was hospitalized.

i. None of these things happened to me as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

4. What was the zip code of your home or apartment right before Hurricane Harvey?

a. Enter number

5. If 3a checked. What is the current status of the home or apartment you were living in before the
storm? (Select one)

Combined Arms | November 2019 21

a. My residence is repaired and I am currently living there.

b. There is still minor repair work to do on my residence, such as painting or drywall patchwork,
and I am still living there.

c. There is still major repair work to do on my residence, such as roofing or flooring, and I am still
living there.

d. My residence remains damaged and I am not currently living there.

e. I moved to a new residence permanently (sold home or signed new lease) and am no longer
living there.

6. If 3b checked. What is the status of the vehicle(s) that was damaged or lost? (Select one)

a. The vehicle was repaired and I still drive it.

b. The vehicle was replaced.

c. The vehicle was not replaced and I am still need of one.

d. My vehicle was not damaged.

7. If 3d or 3e checked. Has your income returned to what it was before the storm? (Select one)

a. Yes

b. No

8. If 3f/3g/3e checked. Has your health returned to what it was before the storm? (Select one)

a. Yes

b. No

c. My health was not affected by the storm.

9. If 3a-3h checked. Did you or someone in your household apply for FEMA aid after Hurricane Harvey?
(Select one)

a. Yes, and I already received payment

b. Yes but my claim was rejected

c. No

10. When it comes to flood insurance, which of the following applies to you? (Select one)

a. I currently have flood insurance and had flood insurance before Hurricane Harvey.

22 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey

b. I currently have flood insurance, but I did not have flood insurance before Hurricane Harvey.

c. I do not have flood insurance, but I had flood insurance before Hurricane Harvey.

d. I do not have flood insurance and did not have flood insurance after Hurricane Harvey.

11. In the days immediately or after Hurricane Harvey did you volunteer to help family members, friends,
or other people who you might know through clubs, churches or organizations? And if so, did you
volunteer with an organization for the first time? (Select one)

a. Yes, and I volunteered with at least one organization for the first time.

b. Yes, and I volunteered with organizations that I had volunteered with before the storm.

c. No, I did not volunteer.

12. In the days immediately or after Hurricane Harvey did you receive any help from family members,
friends, or other people who you might know through clubs, churches or organizations? (Select one)

a. Yes

b. No

13. Have you done any of the following since Hurricane Harvey? (Check all that apply)

a. I moved to an area that is not on a flood plain and/or has a lower risk of flooding.

b. I raised my house to prevent future flooding.

c. I created a hurricane preparedness kit and/or hurricane plan.

d. I became civically engaged on flooding issues (e.g., attended town hall, talked to a government
official or representative, voted on a bond proposal)

e. Other: open-ended

14. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: I feel like things are back to normal in my life
since Hurricane Harvey. (Select one)

a. Strongly agree

b. Agree

c. Somewhat agree

d. Somewhat disagree

e. Disagree

f. Strongly disagree

Combined Arms | November 2019 23

15. Are you still in need of services or support in the following areas? (Check all that apply)

a. Mental health

b. Employment

c. Home repairs

d. Legal assistance

e. Furniture assistance

f. Clothing assistance

g. I am no longer in need of help after Hurricane Harvey

h. Other (open-ended)

16. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your experience of Hurricane Harvey and
recovery after the storm? (Open-ended)

24 Serving Veterans After Hurricane Harvey