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Health Insurance Coverage of Veterans

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Financing the health care of veterans is of particular concern to the American public given the unique medical needs many require as a result of illnesses and injuries incurred while serving in the military. About half of all veterans in 2016 had health insurance coverage through Medicare, as they were age 65 or older. For the other half of the veteran population, who were of working age (ages 19 to 64), 510,000 (5.5 percent) were uninsured in 2016. Both the number and rate of working-age veterans without health insurance declined to a new low during the past four years.

Note: For more information, see <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/>.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013 to 2016.

Working-age veterans under the age of 35 experienced the largest declines in their uninsured rates between 2013 and 2016, closing an age gap in health insurance coverage between themselves and the oldest working-age veterans (from a difference of 8.2 percentage points to 3.4 percentage points).

Note: For more information, see <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/>.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013 to 2016.

Between 2013 and 2016, health insurance coverage rates increased across most health insurance coverage types. Employer-sponsored health insurance was the most common health insurance coverage for working-age veterans, followed by health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, Medicaid or other means-tested government programs and direct purchase. 

* Medicaid includes other government-assistance plans for those with low incomes or a disability.
Note: Types of coverage are not mutually exclusive. Veterans can be covered by more than one plan.
For more information, see <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/>.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013 and 2016.

Veterans have a unique source of health care available through the VA; however, it is not universally available to all veterans. Eligibility for the VA health care system is based on veteran status, service-connected disability status, income level and other factors. Moreover, not all eligible veterans actually use VA for their health care, and some may not realize they are eligible for VA health care. In fact, among uninsured veterans, about one-quarter could potentially qualify to use VA health care based on their service-connected disability status or income level.

About one-third of working-age veterans (2.8 million) used or were enrolled in the VA health care system in 2016. About 732,000 working-age veterans (25.8 percent) relied on VA as their sole source of health insurance coverage, while most veterans using VA (74.2 percent) had an additional type of health insurance coverage.

Having coverage through multiple plans can fill gaps in less comprehensive plans, though it may lead to discontinuity or duplication of care. About three in ten working-age veterans had more than one type of health insurance plan, and among these veterans with multiple coverage plans, about three-quarters had VA health care as one of their coverages.

Additionally, one in 10 working-age veterans (almost 1 million) relied on Medicaid or other means-tested government health care programs. Between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of working-age veterans who had Medicaid increased most for those who lived in poverty. The number of working-age veterans with Medicaid also increased during this period most notably for veterans whose income-to-poverty ratio was between 100 percent and 399 percent of the poverty threshold. The income-to-poverty ratio gauges the depth of poverty and shows how close a family’s income is to its poverty threshold.

Note: For more information, see <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/>.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013 and 2016.
For more information on health insurance, visit <www.census.gov/topics/health/health-insurance.html>.
For more information on veterans, visit <www.census.gov/topics/population/veterans.html>.


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Page Last Revised - November 17, 2022
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