The VA’s IPS program aimed to move homeless veterans struggling with mental health or substance use issues into competitive employment rapidly as part of an integrated treatment approach. This evaluation directly compared IPS to a separate intervention, TWE, in order to better understand which of the two interventions might be more effective; the distinctive feature of IPS is the integration of mental and physical health treatment into a rapid job search and placement process.
As part of the VA’s IPS program, an employment specialist worked with a larger team of clinicians and support staff to integrate treatment of homeless veterans’ underlying mental and physical health issues into the veterans’ employment services. The employment specialist assessed participants’ vocational abilities and helped tailor an accelerated job search based on their strengths and preferences. Employment specialists also cultivated relationships with local employers, developed leads on competitive employment opportunities, and helped participants access other services such as job training and health care available through the VA. As of 2020, the VA continues to offer similar services to eligible participants. The target population for IPS included homeless veterans who (1) were not receiving VA health services, (2) expressed a desire to participate in competitive employment, and (3) were diagnosed with a psychiatric disability or substance use problem. IPS was implemented in nine VA medical centers across the United States.
The effectiveness of the VA’s IPS program when compared with TWE indicates the effect of the services that are unique to IPS, or how much better IPS meets participants’ needs than TWE. IPS addressed participants’ mental and physical health issues while facilitating a rapid job-search process and job placement. In contrast, TWE participants received structured vocational rehabilitation services and therapeutic work placements without integrated health services. This study was part of the Therapeutic Employment Placement and Support demonstration, which also examined Typical Services for Competitively Employed Veterans (CE), TWE, and TWE followed by CE.