Sociology professor Dr. Steven Arxer takes key role in $1.14 million VA study

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Dr. Steven Arxer grant

UNT Dallas Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Steven Arxer is beginning work on a research study that will explore intervention strategies to help veterans better transition from prison back to society.

Veterans Administration Research and Development is funding the $1.14 million study called, Successful Transitions and Reintegration Tools for Veterans (START-VETS). Arxer, who will serve as co-investigator and lead qualitative researcher, will work closely with a director of research at the Dallas VA Medical Center and researchers from UT Southwestern.

The project will also provide opportunity for some UNT Dallas sociology students to participate in key research aspects of the study. This project marks UNT Dallas’ first major representation in a venture with Veteran Affairs.

“The VA wants to better understand the factors that impact veterans discharged from prison,” Arxer said. “This study will be used to develop a program focused on building the skills and resources that can help veterans reduce outcomes such as homelessness, unemployment, negative health effects, substance use disorders, mental illness and re-incarceration.”

More than 131,000 veterans are in the U.S. prison system, and an estimated 50,000 veterans are discharged annually. Many of those discharged will encounter high rates of significant negative events and barriers that interfere with attaining long-term success.

Assisting veterans in their transition from incarceration is an essential component to successful reentry into society. The $1.14 million grant will fund a planned, four-year, mixed-method study, a pilot transition rehabilitation program, and the assessment materials needed to serve this population.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop a veteran transition program that includes a series of intervention and resource tools focused on building skills for veterans transitioning from prison.

The selected UNT Dallas sociology students will take on roles as qualitative research assistants.

“Our Sociology degree program at UNT Dallas uniquely offers qualitative methods as part of its core curriculum,” Arxer said. “Participating students will be involved in the data collection and analysis of interviews with veterans from Dallas and across the country. Students will gain insight into how sociologists use research to solve real-world social problems."

Most importantly, they will play an important role in improving the lives of veterans.