- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2003


The poverty rate for U.S. veterans is about half that of all Americans, the Census Bureau said in a Memorial Day report detailing the status of the nation’s former military personnel.

Almost 6 percent of the country’s 26 million veterans lived in poverty in 2000, compared with 11 percent of all adults, according to the bureau.

Veterans groups say service members leave the military with federal benefits, such as education and job training, paid for through the G.I. Bill. That tends to give them a boost in the private sector.

“This is a group of people who have experience working as part of a team, who have demonstrated that they value loyalty and dedication, attributes that are attractive to employers,” Terry Jemison, spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Friday.

Veterans also receive other cost-saving benefits, such as free health care for wartime injuries and access to special home-loan guarantees from the government.

About 29 percent of veterans 18 and older are disabled, compared with 23 percent for all U.S. residents 21 and older, the bureau found. Nearly half of World War II veterans are disabled, compared with one-quarter of Vietnam-era veterans and fewer than one-fifth of veterans who served during the 1990s.

The Census Bureau did not ask whether disabling injuries were the result of battle wounds.

David Gorman, executive director of the Washington office of the group Disabled American Veterans, praised the quality of the veterans’ health system but criticized the government for not putting more money into it.

“The number of veterans who need the quality care aren’t able to access it because of shortfalls,” he said.

Overall, the veteran population in the United States has declined 8 percent since 1980, as retired soldiers from the Korean War, World War II and earlier conflicts die in greater numbers.

Women have steadily increased their presence in the military during this time. Their share of veterans increased from 4 percent in 1980 to 6 percent in 2000.

Those with military experience during the Vietnam War period, defined as August 1964 to April 1975, made up the largest contingent of veterans — nearly 32 percent, or 8.4 million people.

They were followed by those who served in World War II and those who served in the military between February 1955 and July 1964, the period between the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Other findings:

• Seventeen percent of Alaska’s adult residents were veterans, the highest proportion in the country. It was followed by Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and Maine.

• After leaving the military, veterans tended to settle not far from the installations where they were stationed. For instance, six of the top 10 cities with the highest percentage of veterans were near the world’s largest naval installation at Norfolk, Va.

The data came from a bureau report released last week, which summarized results from the 2000 census.

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