Honoring Our Veterans in 2011

Our Troops Need the Best Possible Care and Support

A statistical picture of our service members and the challenges they face.

A child places flags for veterans at Highland Park Cemetary in Highland Hills, Ohio. Our service members and veterans continue to face challenges before, during, and after deployments, from combat stress injuries to unemployment. (AP/Tony Dejak)
A child places flags for veterans at Highland Park Cemetary in Highland Hills, Ohio. Our service members and veterans continue to face challenges before, during, and after deployments, from combat stress injuries to unemployment. (AP/Tony Dejak)

This Veterans Day, we at the Center for American Progress honor the brave men and women who serve or have served in the active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard—especially those who have given their lives or suffered physical or mental wounds. We remember the countless sacrifices made by all veterans since our nation’s founding and honor those still serving on our behalf. We also honor the families, friends, and other loved ones who made their service and sacrifice possible.

This by-the-numbers column illustrates the challenges that confront our service members and veterans before, during, and after deployments, from combat stress injuries to unemployment. 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 22 million: Number of veterans currently living in the United States.

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

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


12.1 percent: Percentage of post-9/11 veterans who were unemployed as of October 2011, compared to 9 percent of the population. To combat this problem, as part of his “We Can’t Wait” initiative, President Barack Obama issued an executive order on Monday announcing that post-9/11 veterans will be eligible for six months of job search services as well as access to a veteran-specific job bank. Moreover, if passed by Congress, President Obama’s American Jobs Act would provide tax credits to employers who hire veterans.

About 20 percent: The unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 to 24 last year.

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

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

$10,000 less: Difference between what college-educated service members who have recently returned to civilian life earn per year on average compared to other college-educated adults.

Mental health problems

Every 36 hours: Rate at which a service member committed suicide between 2005 and 2010, according to a recent report by the Center for a New American Security.

Nearly 35 percent: Percentage of deployed service members that Stanford University estimates experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

10 percent to 20 percent: Percentage of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America estimates 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."


50 percent: Rate at which veterans are more likely than other Americans to become homeless. The Obama administration has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

About 75,000: Number of veterans who are homeless on any given night, according to estimates from the Veterans Administration.

About 20,000: Number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were homeless in the past five years according to the Veterans Administration.

5.5 percent: Percentage of homeless vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the overall homeless population, according to the Veterans Administration.


27 percent: Percentage of Army soldiers who met the criteria for alcohol abuse in three or four months after returning from Iraq according to a study by the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

One in four: Rate at which soldiers abused prescription drugs according to a 2009 Pentagon health survey.

31 percent: Rate at which combat veterans are more likely to begin binge drinking than service members who do not experience combat.

7.1 percent: Percentage of veterans (an estimated 1.8 million people) who met criteria for a past-year substance use disorder from 2004 to 2006 according to surveys by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

These numbers make clear that President Obama and Congress must work together to ensure our troops receive not only the receive the highest-quality training before their deployments and the best equipment and medical care we can provide for them while in action but also the support they and their families need upon their return.

For more on how you can help veterans, visit the organizations below dedicated to aiding the men and women of our armed forces and their families:

See also:

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