A commitment to veterans’ wellness

This Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of honoring those who have served in America’s armed forces. The tradition began with a proclamation from President Woodrow Wilson on the first anniversary of the end of World War I. He declared that “the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service.”

Since then, Americans have expanded our observance of this day to include all who have served their country in uniform. And we have come to recognize how many veterans grapple with issues such as post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and depression. These conditions often are difficult to recognize and treat, and they contribute to elevated rates of substance abuse and suicide among former service members.

IBM is committed to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other organizations to support service members as they make the transition to civilian life. On Aug. 28, IBM began a field test of GRIT, a VA-branded digital solution. GRIT is powered by our LIVE360 of Mental Fitness (LIVE3600) platform, which was designed to strengthen mental health and well-being by combining neuroscience and mobile technologies with clinically validated assessments to address wellness challenges and social determinants of health, including employment, housing, fitness, and community.

Finding a job is service members’ number-one concern as they transition from military to civilian life. GRIT provides targeted and personalized job-searching and job-matching functions using Watson Employment Manager and an aggregator of more than 51,000 job sites. GRIT also includes a “mind gym” that relies on technology from IBM’s partner, Total Brain, to provide scientifically backed assessments that measure the twelve capacities of the brain that define mental health, covering the areas of self-control, emotion, feeling, and cognition. The mind gym delivers personalized brain training programs comprised of mobile games and exercises that strengthen veterans’ mental fitness and emotional resiliency.

This Veterans Day is the official end of the GRIT field test, and we can already report some encouraging results! We offered GRIT to veterans, active-duty service members, reservists, and some caregivers and spouses. GRIT was downloaded by 1,403 people in all, who spent between 11 and 16 minutes per day using it.

A survey of field testers found that 69 percent of them would recommend GRIT to other veterans. On average, they cited the mind gym as the top feature. The test group as a whole spent about 20 hours per day doing tests and exercises. At day 70 (early November) of the field test, that correlated to  84,000 minutes (1,400 hours) spent in the mind gym — or about 60 minutes per person.

The second-most popular feature was a job-matching service that connects veterans with job opportunities aligned with their backgrounds, skills, military experience and interests. The current release includes positions in logistics, engineering, IT and construction; in response to user feedback, the upcoming release will include jobs in all industries.

IBM is developing a full report of the field test results for the VA, as well as a proposal to make GRIT widely available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists. As an organization that counts many veterans among its employees, IBM has always had a strong commitment to helping those with military experience make the transition to civilian life. With the release of GRIT, we hope to make an even broader impact on the health and well-being of those who serve.

Authors

Sam Gordy, general manager, U.S. defense and intelligence, and Andrew Fairbanks, federal market lead, IBM Services