Honoring Our Veterans in 2010

A By-the-Numbers Look at Difficulties Facing America’s Veterans on Veterans Day 2010

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan should have access to the best health care, facilities, and doctors that this country has to offer, but many of them struggle with the most basic of needs.

Veteran Tom Mullon, plays Taps during a funeral at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minnesota. (AP/Dawn Villella)
Veteran Tom Mullon, plays Taps during a funeral at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minnesota. (AP/Dawn Villella)

This Veterans Day, we at the Center for American Progress once again honor the millions of brave men and women who serve and have served in the active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard and have made great sacrifices to protect our country and our freedoms—especially those who have given their lives. We also honor the families, friends, and other loved ones who made their service possible.

This by-the-numbers look at service members and veterans paints a picture of the many men and women who have served our country and the difficulties they face before, during, and after deployments, including combat stress injuries and trouble finding jobs and affordable housing. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to put a tremendous burden on our fighting forces and we must meet our obligation to provide them with the best possible care and support.

Who are our veterans?

Approximately 23 million veterans are currently living in the United States.

More than 2 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq since October 2001.

Approximately 37 million Americans are dependents of veterans or survivors of deceased veterans.

Mental health problems

Stanford University estimates that as many as 35 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America estimates that 10 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

Yet the RAND Corporation found in 2008 that "only 53 percent of the service members who need treatment for PTSD, TBI, and major depression actually end up seeking help."

Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that each month there are an average of 950 suicide attempts by veterans under the care of the VA.

Lack of health care coverage

A research team at Harvard Medical School estimated that in 2008 more than 2,200 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died because "they lacked health insurance and thus had reduced access to care."


A Pentagon health survey released late last year found that one in four soldiers admitted to abusing prescription drugs.

Surveys by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have found that "from 2004 to 2006, 7.1 percent of veterans (an estimated 1.8 million persons 18 or older) met criteria for a past-year substance use disorder."

Combat veterans are 31 percent more likely to begin binge drinking than service members who do not experience combat.


2,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have so far received help from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ homeless outreach program.

107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to 2009 estimates from the Veterans Administration.

About one-third of homeless adult Americans are veterans, even though only about one-tenth of all adults are veterans.

The housing crisis

About 500,000 veterans pay more than half of their income for rent, according to a 2007 study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Foreclosure rates in military towns increased at four times the national average in 2008.


61 percent of employers in a 2007 survey said they didn’t have "a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service members offer."

More than 75 percent of veterans report "an inability to effectively translate their military skills to civilian terms."

College-educated service members who have recently returned to civilian life earn almost $10,000 less per year on average than other college-educated adults.

We have no greater duty than to ensure that our troops receive the highest quality training before their deployments, the best equipment and medical care we can provide for them while in action, and the best help and care available upon their return.

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