Population of servicemembers and Veterans
A little fewer than 2.5 million servicemembers served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 28 percent from Reserves or National Guard. Over a million individuals were deployed more than once. Among all veterans in the U.S. right now, the group who served after the 9/11 attacks is less than 13 percent.
Of the roughly 2.5 million men and women who served during the war on terror and are now out of the military, 19 percent are not in the labor force—they are at college, raising children, retired. Of the remainder who are in the labor force, 90 percent are employed, and 10 percent are unemployed (their jobless rate being about two percentage points higher than non-veterans). Older vets are having better luck with jobs than younger ones (in fact, they have better employment rates than non-veterans), and men are doing better than women. Spouses of members of the military, who must deal with moves and deployments, face special challenges getting jobs. (All numbers below are 2012 annual averages, and cover all veterans who served in the post-9/11 period.)
Education and Human capital
There is a common misperception that many of the Americans who volunteer for military service do so because they lack skills to make it in the civilian economy.Actually,the young people who serve today exceed national norms, on average, in education and intelligence, health, and character qualities. On the whole, it is most accurate to think of people who have served in the military as a national asset, rather than a problematic population.
Nearly all Americans agree that our society should pull out all the stops to heal and rehabilitate men and women injured during military service, and to comfort the families of the fallen. Thanks to improved combat medicine, many of the wounded who would have died in past wars now survive—some of them requiring extended support during recovery. Fortunately, compared to the millions who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, the number seriously hurt is smaller than sometimes imagined, as totaled below. It is these on whom intensive care must be concentrated. (Unless otherwise noted, these numbers cumulate all injuries and deaths from the end of 2001 through early 2013.)
Mental Health / substance abuse
Roadside bomb blasts caused significant numbers of concussions among recently deployed servicemembers, and some serious brain injuries. Post-traumatic stress diagnoses are rising (for reasons discussed in the introduction to this book).Alcohol use is higher among servicemembers and drug use is lower, compared to equivalent-age civilian counterparts. (Brain injuries and traumatic stress diagnoses are cumulated totals for the period 2002–2012.)
Family and community
About 2 million spouses and children share family life with full-time members of the military. Reservists and National Guard have another million or so family members. About 200,000 dependents have a family member deployed overseas right now. Single parents and dual-military parents, though not large in number, face special burdens.
Legal / Financial / Housing
Contrary to some popular misperceptions, military families are no more likely to divorce than other families, and their rate of single-parenting is far below the national average. Veterans are much less likely to be in poverty than the rest of the population, and more likely to earn high incomes. Populations of special concern, like the homeless, are of a size that should be manageable by effective programs.