Veterans Day By the Numbers
Life + Money

Veterans Day By the Numbers

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Why did America choose November 11 to honor  it's veterans?   It began  as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I (“the war to end all wars”) after an armistice was reached between the allied nations and Germany. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 creating an annual observance, and in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation approving the name change to Veterans Day to honor all those who served in all American wars. Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th.

As the U.S. takes the day to reflect and honor veterans, there is a sobering reality found in the weak job market for the men and women who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unemployment rate for this group of veterans is a staggering 12 percent, far higher than the national 9 percent average. And things could get worse quickly. If the congressional 12-member ‘Super Committee’ fails to agree on a bipartisan deficit reduction package of at least $1.2 trillion in the next two weeks there will be approximately $600 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon’s budget over the next 10 years. This is in addition to the $400 billion in defense spending cuts planned by the Obama Administration over the next decade. The House Armed Services Committee warned in September that this outcome would force nearly 200,000 additional soldiers and Marines onto the job market.

Here’s a look at some important stats related to our veterans:

11 a.m.
It has become habit for the U.S. to briefly pause at precisely 11 a.m., ceasing all business to honor the war heroes.

21.8 million
The number of military veterans in the United States in 2010.

1.6 million
The number of female veterans in 2010.

9 million
The number of veterans 65 and older in 2010. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.7 million were younger than 35.

95.6 billion
Amount of federal government spending for veterans benefits programs in 2009. Of this total, $44.7 billion went to compensation and pensions, $43.4 billion for medical programs and the remainder to other programs, such as vocational rehabilitation and education.

When They Served

7.6 million
Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2010. Thirty-five percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 4.8 million served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); 2.1 million in World War II (1941-1945); 2.6 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 5.5 million in peacetime only.

Number of living veterans in 2010 who served during the Vietnam era and both Gulf War eras and no other period.

Where They Live

Number of states with 1 million or more veterans in 2010.These states were California (2 million; Florida (1.6 million); Texas (1.6 million).

Percent of people 18 and older in Alaska who were veterans in 2010. The percent of the 18 and older population who were veterans was 12 percent or more in Maine, Montana, Virginia and Wyoming.


Percent of veterans 25 and older with at least a bachelor's degree in 2010. In comparison, 28 percent of the total population had a bachelor's degree or higher.

Percent of veterans 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher in 2010, compared with 86 percent of the population as a whole.


Annual median income of veterans, in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars, compared with $25,605 for the population as a whole.

On the Job

9.6 million
Number of veterans 18 to 64 in the labor force in 2010.


Percent of veterans for whom poverty status is determined with a disability in 2010.

3.4 million
Number of veterans with a service-connected disability rating. Of this number, 698,000 have a rating of 70 percent or higher. Severity of one's disability is scaled from 0 to 100 percent and eligibility for compensation depends on one's rating.


Number of unemployed veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rate of unemployment for veterans in October.

Total veterans out of work.

Unemployment rate in October for the youngest veterans aged 18 to 24, almost double from one year earlier.

Unemployment rate in October for black veterans aged 18 to 24.


15.8 million
Number of veterans who voted in the 2008 presidential election. Seventy-one percent of veterans cast a ballot in the presidential election.

12.4 million
Number of veterans who voted in the 2010 congressional election. Fifty-seven percent of veterans voted in the 2010 congressional election.

Business Owners

Percentage of all U.S. nonfarm firms that are majority owned by veterans. Veteran-owned firms comprised an estimated 2.4 million of the 27.1 million nonfarm businesses nationwide in 2007.

Percentage of veteran owners of respondent firms who were 55 or older in 2007. This compares with 37 percent of all owners of respondent firms. Similarly, in 2007, 56 percent of veteran-owned respondent firms with employees reported that their businesses were originally established before 1990. This compares with 39 percent of all employer respondent firms.

Percentage of veteran owners of respondent firms who were disabled as the result of injury incurred or aggravated during active military service.