New Statistics About American Veterans

Sure, serving in the military long-term will likely make you a decent living, but what about the other effects military service has on veterans today? A new research paper from the Pew Research Center takes a look at the attitude of and challenges to American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A total of 1,853 veterans were surveyed, and the poll shows some surprising things. Here are a few of the results:

  • 96 percent of veterans are proud of their military service.
  • 90 percent said they gained self confidence.
  • 37 percent say that, whether diagnosed or not, they have experienced post traumatic stress.
  • 44 percent had problems readjusting to civilian life.
  • 34 percent say that (given the costs and benefit) the wars were worth fighting.
  • 11.5 percent were unemployed in 2010.
  • 16 percent were seriously injured while serving.
  • 84 percent think the American public has little to no understanding of the problems that the military faces.



Rex McClure

Interesting study. I would like to see a future study look at the long term effects of service on socio-economic success factors (degrees, employment, earnings, etc.). It would be particularly interesting to study a cohort of military service vets vs. non-vets vs. peace corps vets. Anybody have $30,000 in grant money burning a hole in their pocket?

Joe Dokes

I don't see what is so "surprising" about the results.

Yes, most should be proud of their service, they are a dedicated group who have been given difficult tasks and have largely accomplished what was expected of them. Even when the task was nearly impossible, ie Iraq.

War is traumatic, I am not surprised that 37% would suffer PTSD.

Military life is highly regimented, having difficulty adjusting to a higher degree of freedom should be expected.

I am not surprised at all that only a third say the wars were worth it. When you see the real and traumatic costs of war up close and personal they would be less likely to support future ill conceived military adventures. Look at Iraq, what started out as a simple regime change turned into full blown nation building in a region in which a myriad of religious and tribal groups have a long colorful history of killing one another. Then there is Afghanistan in which we quickly overthrew the taliban and then let the country fester for nearly a decade, before investing any effort to help them build an ordered society.

Considering the level of serious injury and the fact that many Military jobs are not immediately useful in the civilian world, I am not surprised by the higher level of unemployment.

Finally considering you think the results are "surprising" simply affirms the belief of many in the Military that civilians don't understand what they do.


Joe Dokes



96% being proud of what 66% of the same said was unjust is a logic fail and certainly should be a surprising phenomenon of the soldier psyche- while i agree that the "surprising" tag in this post is just annoying marketing, i think that more of us should examine this disconnect in our military to hopefully induce our foreign policy away from bloodshed that most of us soldiers and civilians can agree is an unworthy act


96 percent said they were proud of their *service*. There's a lot more to any veteran's service than time spent in Afghanistan or Iraq.


I can honestly say any and all success I have had in my career as a senior manager and executive at 3 Fortune 500 companies was a direct result of the leadership skills I learned while in the United States Marine Corps.

I recall having trouble adjusting to civilian life after my service ( please note I served in peace time and do not compare my service to those in the military today). The sense of purpose was so strong each day and the commitment to one another and the mission has been difficult to replicate in civilian life. I can only imagine what those serving today deal with coming home today in war time.

As to your comment about making a decent living. Military pay is ok and the retirement inviting but let me assure you if someone is in long enough to receive one they have earned it and then some. It is a tough life of difficult jobs, separation and hardship.

I was particularly saddened to see the unemployment rate for vets in the survey. Employers should know vets are among the very best workers they could hire. In addition the government does little to help people leaving the service. You almost have to hit the lottery of timing to have your service contract expire and a job opening coincide. You can't 'quit' early to take another job. I am sure this contributes to the employment problem.
It is no surprise they feel most people don't understand the military. Just like I can't understand combat even though I was a Marine. I didn't experience it so I can't completely understand it.

Even so I do believe most Americans appreciate what our military does and the sacrifice it takes to service.

Thank you for your service one and all.


Voice of reason

I want to start out saying that I'm not trying to trash our soliders, or belittle the great sacrifice that they make for the country and our freedom.

That being said, one thing that you have to factor when you talk about veteran unemployment and the hardships that they face when they come home is the selection bias. Sometimes people join the military due to family tradition or a strong sense of duty and patriotism, but usually it's because they don't have opportunities as a civilian. They usually join when they're right out of high school, and it's a logical career choice if you can't get into or pay for college. What usually doesn't happy is somebody going into the military when they got into a school like Harvard, have a full scholarship for school, or have rich parents (or any combination of the three).

So you have to imagine that while veteran unemployment might be high, unemployment is usually high among the uneducated, and the blue-collar working class. Plus, unemployment is lower for the educated.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you come back home, you are unemployed, unless you have a job waiting for you. With this recession, unless you have a job, it's hard to find one, and most people who are hired move laterally, and don't start cold after being unemployed.

So I think that the "statistics" might be more alarming than they really are when you factor in common sense. Taking the population, they're probably a lot better off than if they would have been unemployed that whole time, or selling drugs on the street.



"Sometimes people join the military due to family tradition or a strong sense of duty and patriotism, but usually it’s because they don’t have opportunities as a civilian."

At least one study in recent years has debunked that tired old myth. The military has not been that way since the draft was dissolved.


Most of my information is the result of personal anecdotes.

I fought in Iraq from the end of 2003 to the beginning of 2005. I agree with most of what is said.

I am a little unclear as to why the unemployment number is so high. The reason being, is that if I didn't start my own company, I would be unemployed. This particular war for soldiers should be a study in working independently. While general orders are given, often critical decisions have to be made at the team and even individual soldier level.

My experience was further tainted by unqualified and unimaginative leadership. I realize there are many good officers, but when your life is on the line, you often can't just say, "yes, sir" if your PL or CO is a lacking in the intelligence arena.

That said, nearly every member of my platoon had at least a bachelor's degree (we were national guard) and about seven of us had Master's degrees.

Two have gone on to be physicians, and everyone else is either employed in a managerial role or self-employed and making their own fortune.

To address the point about people not understand. No one can understand it. That's why the friendships forged during combat are lifelong friendships. We address each other always as "brother". While no one else can understand, I can think of no higher honor than serving in the United States military in combat and I don't expect people to understand.



@Voice of reason

It is exactly that attitude that leads to veteran unemployment. I had a 32 ACT score when I joined the military, instead of going to college.

I joined and worked 8 years in Telecommunications. I separated after obtaining my BA in Info Sys Management. I spoke with the HR manager at a local TelCo to discuss my skills, and he said that I had no experience that he could recommend, as "military experience doesn't count". I ended up taking the lowest job in the company for 12 an hour, (about what unemployment pays).

I was offered another job a month after, because I had the non-military position on the top of my resume, and moved up... but it is a pretty sad state of affairs when SSgt, is some how lower than level one DSL repair support.

Dave D

Fellow Freaks,

I think this a very interesting topic. I represent a small cohort of military veterans that will transition to Business school this coming fall after ten years in Special Operations. I am immensely proud of my service and I indeed gained self-confidence. I will respectfully withhold comment on the validity of the wars as I am still serving. That said, I think there is a really interesting topic for Dubs and Levitt to look into.

"Do US Military Veterans feel supported?"

Okay, the title is yours to work with. But with the extraordinary generosity of the Post 9-11 GI Bill, the fact that veterans are considered "diversity hires" by many large companies (right or wrong, this does move their resumes higher within the pile), and a strong culture of law makers standing behind pro-veteran initiatives, why are so many Veterans unemployed.

What do the numbers say?
Does the GI Bill work? Robert Gates famously thought it was ludicrously generous as the sitting SECDEF. By the way, it started as an incentive to bring recruits into the military
Which veterans get the most support? Officers vs. enlisted? SpecOps/Pilots vs. general purpose forces?
What about these other scholarships like Pat Tillman and the Navy SEAL Foundations? A veteran has to write cogent and competitive essays to get financial assistance so are these well-intentioned charities inadvertently selecting those that already have the most education and leaving behind those that need it more?

Anyway, I think it's worth some consideration and if economists are the fearless crusaders that truly tell it how it is, you would be the only ones to pull the curtain back and see if US Military Veterans really are supported in the right ways.