War Damages Future Work Prospects of Many U.S. Vets: Data

MONDAY Aug. 9, 2010 -- U.S. combat veterans are more likely than non-combat veterans and non-veterans to face lifelong socioeconomic challenges, a new study finds.

"Veterans who saw combat started their work lives at a relative disadvantage that they were unable to overcome. Soldiers exposed to combat were more likely than non-combat veterans to be disabled and unemployed in their mid-20s and to remain so throughout their worklife," Alair MacLean, an assistant professor in the sociology department at Washington State University Vancouver, said in an American Sociological Association news release.

MacLean and colleagues analyzed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a long-term survey of individuals and families conducted annually since 1968. The researchers focused on veterans and non-veterans who would have been between the ages of 25 and 55 in any year between 1968 and 2003.

"In most survey years, [combat veterans] were more likely than non-veterans to be disabled. In all survey years, they were more likely than non-combat veterans to be disabled," MacLean said.

The researchers also found that the proportion of combat veterans who were disabled increased over time.

"In 1968, slightly over 10 percent [of combat veterans] were disabled. This increased to over 20 percent in 2003," MacLean said.

Combat veterans had higher rates of employment than the other groups in the initial years included in the study but had significantly higher levels of unemployment in most years after 1975.

"What the data suggests is that combat may scar veterans who experience it, leading them to be less able to find work between the ages of 25 and 55, the prime working years," MacLean said.

The study is published in the August issue of American Sociological Review.

More information

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers resources for veterans.

Posted: August 2010


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