Veterans are all around us yet, out of uniform, they are an invisible army of those who trod the path of service.
At a time when the nation’s armed defense is shouldered by volunteers, Americans have never been so disconnected from the military. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans comprise the veteran population, less than half the rate in 1980.
Veteran demographics are changing steadily as the number of women, Hispanics and African Americans are ascending.
According to the Census Bureau, in 2017, veterans were generally better educated than nonveterans (66 percent had completed some college, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the civilian rate of 60.3 percent). They were more likely to be married (59.8 percent versus 47.8 percent), had a higher median income (for men, $40,995 versus $36,573), and enjoyed lower rates of unemployment and poverty.
But veterans also face unique difficulties, especially in dealing with mental illnesses and physical disabilities (29.5 percent have a disability compared with 14.2 percent of civilians). They also face challenges in finding work, housing and good health care. State legislatures play a role in helping veterans to transition successfully to civilian life back home.
—Mark Wolf is the editor of the NCSL Blog.