One out of every ten veterans alive today was seriously injured at some point while serving in the military, and three-quarters of those injuries occurred in combat. For many of these 2.2 million wounded warriors, the physical and emotional consequences of their wounds have endured long after they left the military, according to a Pew Research Center survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,853 veterans conducted from July 18 to Sept. 4, 2011.
Veterans who suffered major service-related injuries are more than twice as likely as their more fortunate comrades to say they had difficulties readjusting to civilian life. They are almost three times as likely as other veterans to report they have suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTS). And they are less likely in later life to be in overall good health or to hold full-time jobs.
Government Not Doing Enough
The survey also finds that injured veterans are the most likely to say that they are not getting enough assistance from the government.
Fully half (52%) of all veterans badly injured while serving say the government has not given them, as a veteran, "all the help you think it should." In contrast, of other veterans, only 32% are as critical of the government, while 63% say it has done enough to assist them.
Overall, seven-in-ten injured veterans1 rate the care that wounded soldiers receive in U.S. military hospitals as "excellent" or "good." But this judgment varies dramatically by the era in which the veteran served. Among those who left the military prior to the decade of war that began just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, seven-in-ten injured veterans (71%) rated medical care positively—a view shared by only 55% of those badly injured who served after 9/11.
At the same time, nearly all veterans are proud of their service, regardless of whether they suffered serious injuries. And more than seven-in-ten say they would advise a young person close to them to enlist.
To fill out the portrait of wounded warriors, this report also relies on a data source with a much larger sample of injured veterans than our own national survey.
In July 2010, the Census Bureau re-interviewed 9,739 veterans who had been questioned the previous year as part of the bureau's monthly Current Population Survey (CPS). The sample included 1,058 veterans who are partially or fully disabled as a result of a service-related injury or condition and had received an official disability rating2 from the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to the CPS survey, women and minorities are somewhat more likely than whites or men to be disabled. Among the service branches, a larger proportion of Marines are disabled (17%) than veterans who served in the Army (14%), Air Force (14%) or Navy (12%). And veterans who served in combat are three times as likely to be disabled as those who did not (24% vs. 8%).
Census data also confirm Pew survey findings that show the difficulties that injured or disabled veterans face in the labor force.