Our Veterans: Who Are They?
Today we are pausing to honor and thank the men and women who have served and sacrificed in all branches of our military.
We know that there are approximately 18.2 million living veterans. But what else do we know about them?
To learn more about these men and women, we go to USAFacts, “a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative” with no political agenda or commercial motive, that provides a wealth of data and information – “a portrait” — of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.
There we learn that, in general, veterans are doing very well in several areas – sometimes faring better than the general population.
• Veterans are doing better at finding employment. The 2018 veteran unemployment rate was 3.5%, while the overall population had an unemployment rate of 3.9%.
• In 2018, veterans earned nearly $10,000 more on average than non-veterans. Most of them finding work with the government after their service. They are also employed in manufacturing (12%) and professional and business services (11%). “Younger veterans are even more likely than older veterans to work in government, whereas older veterans are more likely to be self-employed.”
• Also on the bright side, fewer veterans face homelessness these days: In 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that there were 38,000 veterans facing homelessness, down nearly 50% from the 2001 estimate of 65,000.
• More and more veterans are accessing education benefits. The VA reports that education assistance was the second-most used benefit from 2013 to 2016. In 2018, 29% of veterans had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher and 38% had some college or an associate’s degree.
On the other hand, “veteran poverty and disability rates have increased over the past two decades. Seven percent of veterans have incomes below the poverty level, and 29% of veterans are disabled,” with more than four million veterans using the disability compensation program in 2016.
The increasing need to provide medical care to veterans is reflected in the fact that the VA spent $71 billion on veteran medical care in 2018.
Nine percent of veterans today are female. Twelve percent of veterans are “black or African American,” 6.5 percent are Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native or “other/mixed race.”
Almost half of veterans today are over 65 years old. Forty two percent are Gulf Wars veterans, 36% Vietnam War veterans, 7% Korean War veterans and 3% World War II veterans.
Of the latter, sadly only 389,292 of the 16 million Americans who served in that War are alive in 2019. They are leaving us at a rate of 294 each day.
Another sad statistic is the suicide rate among our veterans. According to the VA’s 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the number of veteran suicide deaths per year increased from 5,787 in 2005 to 6,139 in 2017. While in 2005 an average of 15.9 Veterans died by suicide each day, in 2017, an average of 16.8 Veterans died by suicide each day.
Finally, on a mixed note, in the 2018 midterm elections, voters elected or re-elected more than 75 veterans to Congress, including four former servicewomen. The latter, a record number.
While the 2018 freshman class represents the largest number of veterans elected to Congress in nearly a decade, the number of veterans and those still in the military serving in the 116th Congress (96) dropped to a near-historic low at 19 percent, continuing a downward trend in veteran representation, that started in the mid-1970s.
But lest we forget the veterans who have served in the highest office in the land and those who continue to serve at the highest levels in our government, academia, business and industry.
We thank all our veterans for their past and present service.
Unless otherwise noted, all the facts and statistics from USAFacts.org.
A native of Ecuador, educated in The Netherlands, Dorian de Wind is now happily settled in Austin, Texas, after world-wide residences and assignments as an Air Force communications-electronics officer and as a Lockheed Martin aerospace systems engineer. Author of three computer science textbooks for the U.S. Air Force Extension Course Institute (ECI) and a contributor to several newspapers, publications, websites and blogs, Dorian now concentrates on trying to make our country better for his grandson and his offspring