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Veteran Stakeholders Forum

US map with US fltersrag with Veterans Stakeholder Forum and VISN 5 MIRECC logo


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What is a Veteran Stakeholders Forum (VSF)?

The VISN 5 MIRECC Veteran Stakeholders Forum (also known in some organizations as Veteran Engagement Groups) is comprised of Veterans who are selected to meet on a regular basis to provide input on the design, implementation, and dissemination of MIRECC projects.The VISN 5 MIRECC actively supports VA wide efforts to enhance and develop Veteran engagement in healthcare treatment planning and research. 

What is meant by Engagement?

Inclusion of input from stakeholders enhances MIRECC projects.  Veteran engagement helps to promote improvement in research development, clinical implementation and knowledge dissemination of the MIRECC’s work, and ultimately results in improved healthcare services.

Why did the VISN 5 MIRECC form a VSF?

It is central to our mission. The motto of the VISN 5 MIRECC is “Putting Recovery into Practice.” As such, we stand by the credo of the consumer led mental health recovery movement “Nothing about us without us.” We strive to partner with Veterans on a range of our MIRECC activities, to help Veterans with functional impairments achieve whole health including mental health recovery and meaningful lives in their communities of choice.

Click on each section title below to learn more about the value of VSFs to different stakeholders.

Key Motivations for Participating in VSF Identified by Veterans

  • Contributing to Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Research
    • Provides opportunity to “give back” to fellow Veterans; an opportunity for service
    • To enhance our own level of Recovery; builds a sense of achievement and active involvement in VA versus being a passive recipient of care
  • Engaging in Collaboration with fellow Veterans, enriches us by experiencing our shared Veteran identity and by learning from peers

Key Priorities Identified by the Veterans for VA Research

  • Research is informed by the Veteran’s unique perspectives
  • Veteran engagement in research is an ongoing and standard mode of operation rather than incidental
  • Veterans receive follow-up on the progress and outcomes of this Research

Key Takeaways from VSF Identified by MIRECC Investigators

  • Project Development: Veteran experiences highlight current Veteran treatment needs and circumstances that inform project design, for example, utilizing approaches that maximize Veteran empowerment and decision-making, the lack of which had limited treatment success. Veterans’ strong emphasis on recovery-oriented practices reinforce our mission focus. Diverse Veteran perspectives inform efforts to build diversity and inclusiveness in research population selection and in study language.
  • Project Implementation: Veteran experiences help investigators identify potential obstacles and pathways to successful project implementation. Veteran experiences of practical barriers to treatment inform implementation considerations, including methods to engage Veteran research participants more effectively, like transportation needs.
  • Project Review and Analysis: Input on project interventions and results help guide dissemination and future research planning efforts.

Some Samples of Recent Projects Receiving VSF Input

Exploring Biological Factors Increasing Resilience to COVID-19: Consideration of Racial Vulnerability Factors and Solutions – Teodor Postolache, M.D.

Developing Veteran Connection Plans to decrease Veteran Social Isolation due to COVID-19 – Anjana Muralidharan, Ph.D., Samantha Hack, Ph.D. and Amanda Peeples, Ph.D.

Enhancing Veteran Communication Skills around Issues of Social Justice, Using VA Social Skills Training Evidence-based Therapy – Samantha Hack, Ph.D.


The VISN 5 MIRECC's Veteran Stakeholders Forum consists of a small group of VA-connected Veterans from across VISN 5 with an interest in mental health topics, who volunteer to provide their experiences and insights, as the MIRECC shares information about its work. The forum meets throughout the year to give their feedback about current and future MIRECC research, clinical and educational projects. The volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and war eras. Some work in VA, in the private sector, as community volunteers or as community organizers. Sharing their Lived Experience has been of significant benefit to MIRECC project planning. We currently have eight regular Forum members.


The Forum, a longstanding body within the MIRECC, is now meeting virtually each month. Our meeting time is 10:00am on the third Thursday of each month. The format of these 90-minute sessions begins with a review of the agenda, an informal check-in, and introductions. The visiting MIRECC Investigators provide background on the topic area on which their study will focus, the needs which the project hopes to address, study objectives and the stage of study development. They may pose specific questions related to study design and implementation, and sometimes include graphics and materials. Investigators are welcomed to share information and obtain feedback at multiple stages of the project. Forum members respond both with general impressions based on their perspectives, and also respond with specific feedback on the project, with Investigators posing follow-up questions and commenting on feedback. In this way a conversation is fostered between the researcher and stakeholders and among the stakeholders. The investigators review and clarify Veteran comments as the session concludes. The Forum receives updates and information at upcoming sessions.

I am a Veteran. How do I join?

We are seeking volunteers! Qualified applicants are Veterans who have received services from VHA, and are interested in sharing their mental health lived experience, in order to further mental health research and treatment for fellow Veterans.

For more information, or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact:

Ralf Schneider, MA, CPRP
(443) 421-5889

Resources for Creating a Veteran Stakeholders Forum

Below are several resources that might be useful to your organization in establishing a Veteran Stakeholders Forum!

Additional References:

  • Hyde J, Wendleton L, Fehling K, Whittle J, True G, Hamilton A, Gierisch JM, Ertl K, Fix G, Barker A, Wehler CJ, White B, Ritchie MF, Ono SS. (2018). Strengthening Excellence in Research through Veteran Engagement (SERVE): Toolkit for Veteran Engagement in Research (Version 1). Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development, Available at:
  • Wendleton, L, Martin, L, Stewart Steffensmeier, K, LaChappelle, K, Fehling, K, Etingen, B, Ray, C, Carnevale, D, Hardie, C, Grimes, I, Ono, S. (2019). Building Sustainable Models of Veteran-Engaged Health Services Research. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 002216781984553. 10.1177/0022167819845535.


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