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The Disability of Veterans

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There are several definitions that can be used to address issues facing America’s disabled veteran population. The American Community Survey has included two distinct question series related to disability status since 2008 to provide key statistics for use primarily by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The first question series measures functional disabilities and difficulties with activities of daily living among the general population. The second series measures VA service-connected disability status and ratings. A service-connected disability is a disability, disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. The degree of disability is graduated from 0 percent to 100 percent in increments of 10 percent.

In 2014, about 28.8 percent of all veterans  had any type of disability, as defined by the ACS, and 19.6 percent of all veterans (about 3.7 million) had a VA service-connected disability rating. Looking at the two concepts in conjunction, 8.6 percent of all veterans had both a service-connected disability and an ACS-defined disability. Eleven percent had a service-connected disability and no ACS-defined disability, while 20.2 percent had no service-connected disability but did have an ACS-defined disability.

These two different concepts of disability are often confused or conflated in reference to veterans. The purpose of this analysis is to evaluate whether and how the question on VA service-connected disability status and ratings relates to the series of questions about functional disabilities and difficulties with activities of daily living to attempt to answer the question “Is a veteran with a service-connected disability the same as a disabled veteran?”

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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