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Many Programs Available for Those Who Served in U.S. Armed Forces

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The nation’s nearly 20 million veterans are eligible for a variety of cash and noncash benefits due to the sacrifices they made for our country, which has contributed to better economic conditions for them and their survivors, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today.

Veterans — individuals who previously served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces — made up 6.2% of the overall population in the United States in 2017.

According to the report, roughly 90% of veterans were ages 35 and over in 2017 and most (52.8%) were 65 and over, reflecting the fact that the largest share served during the Vietnam War (August 1964 to April 1975).

The report — Benefits Received by Veterans and Their Survivors: 2017 — provides detailed information on the programs and benefits available to veterans. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), it also provides contextual information about veterans and their families.

Over Half of Veterans are Senior Citizens

According to the report, roughly 90% of veterans were ages 35 and over in 2017 and most (52.8%) were 65 and over, reflecting the fact that the largest share served during the Vietnam War (August 1964 to April 1975). The next largest group served from May 1975 to July 1990, which was not during war time.


Supporting Veterans’ Health and Economic Well-Being

Veterans differed from their nonveteran counterparts across key measures in 2017.

For example, veterans were less likely to have a household income less than 200% of the poverty threshold (17.7%) than is true for all households (28.7%).

This may be in part because of several programs that veterans have at their disposal or sources of income that are unique to veterans. 

Among them:

  • Veteran’s Administration (VA) disability compensation benefits. Veterans injured during service are eligible for these benefits. In 2017, 3.9 million or 19.5% of veterans received disability compensation payments.
  • Health benefits from the VA and the Department of Defense’s TRICARE. Nearly all veterans had health insurance in every month of 2017, significantly higher than the rate for nonveterans.
  • VA-guaranteed home loans. Veterans can apply for private home loans through the VA that have better terms (like lower rates and no down payment or mortgage insurance) because the VA guarantees part of them.

Perhaps because of this, veterans were more likely to own their home than nonveterans. In 2017, more than 75% of veterans owned or were in the process of purchasing their own home compared to 65% of households without a veteran. Among veterans with a mortgage, one-third had a loan secured through the VA.

Additional information about veterans and their receipt of federal programs can also be found in a series of SIPP tables profiling veterans and veteran households between 2013 and 2019.

About the Data

The SIPP is the nation’s premier source of information for income and assistance program participation. SIPP collects data and measures changes in economic well-being, family dynamics, education, assets, health insurance, childcare, and food security.

Information on the methodology and reliability of these estimates can be found in the source and accuracy statements for each data release.


Tracy A. Loveless is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Program Participation and Income Transfers Branch.


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