Press Releases

New JEC Report Examines the Poverty Situation of America's Veterans

Nov 10 2011


Washington, D.C.
– A new report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) finds that 12.4 percent of Post-9/11 veterans are living in poverty. Younger veterans have fared the worst, with 21.3 percent of veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 living in poverty. The report also examines the challenges of millions of veterans currently in poverty and how Congress can help them to regain and maintain their economic footing.

Entitled “Broken Promise: The Need to Improve Economic Security for Veterans,” the report finds that the percentage of veterans in poverty increased significantly in recent years, rising from 5.4 percent in 2007 to nearly 7 percent in 2010. In all, more than 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line, and another 1.4 million veterans are living just above it.

“These brave men and women risked their lives to ensure that our homeland stays safe.  Therefore, it is extremely disheartening that we do not have better resources set in place for our veterans as they return home and transition to civilian life,” said Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the JEC.  “Our veterans have learned extremely valuable skills that would make them a valuable asset to the workforce.  As the lawmakers who have sent these men and women overseas to combat zones, we have a responsibility to ensure that they are given every opportunity to succeed in their post-deployment life.”

The report finds that the poverty rate for veterans falls with higher levels of education. Although the poverty rate for veterans of all education levels rose between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate—as well as the rise in the poverty rate—is much lower for veterans with at least a Bachelor’s degree. Nearly 10 percent of veterans with a high school diploma or less were in poverty in 2010, compared to 7.3 percent of those with some college and 3.2 percent of those who have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Continued Casey, “With uniformed men and women returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq in greater numbers, Congress must address the high rates of unemployment and poverty among our veterans. I have urged the Senate to pass the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.  This legislation would provide a tax incentive to businesses who hire veterans.  The act would also provide career training and assistance to aid veterans in their transition to the civilian workforce. ”

Report highlights include:

  • In 2000, the percentage of veterans living below the poverty line was 5.6 percent. Today, this number has increased to 6.9 percent, or more than 1.4 million veterans.
  • While poverty rates have risen for almost all veterans, Post-9/11 veterans have been hit particularly hard by the weak civilian labor market.  The poverty rate for veterans aged 18 to 34 (an age group which accounts for over 80 percent of Post-9/11 veterans) more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, from 5.9 percent of those veterans in 2000 to 12.5 percent in 2010. Those veterans faced an explosive rise in unemployment during the same period.
  • Education improves employment prospects and economic security for veterans. The poverty rate for veterans with at least a Bachelor’s degree is the lowest among all veterans and rose the least over the last decade. Only 3.2 percent of veterans with at least a Bachelor’s degree  were in poverty in 2010, compared to 7.3 percent of veterans with some college and 9.3 percent of veterans with a high school diploma or less.

Added Casey, “It is unacceptable that our veterans face significant employment challenges after coming home.  It is clear that the current programs have not done enough to assist returning servicemembers, and Congress must act to strengthen our support system for veterans to safeguard their economic security.”

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