Rural Veterans: An Aging Population

[imgbelt img=vetspercentpop.png]Nearly 4 million rural Americans are military veterans. That population is aging and has special needs, according to a report from the Economic Research Service of USDA.


Rural Veterans at a Glance.” “Thus, rural Americans are disproportionately represented in the veteran population.”

Rural veterans make up 19% of all veterans in the U.S., compared with just 16% of the general population.

But the number of rural veterans is declining. The number of rural veterans dropped from 6.6 million in 1992 to 3.9 million in 2011. Part of that is due to reclassification of counties from nonmetro to metro, which lowers the overall nonmetro population. Another factor is the decreasing size of the military since 1990 (fewer military personnel means fewer veterans down the line).

But the biggest demographic characteristic of the rural veteran population is how quickly that population is aging. That’s what the chart above shows. The red bars show the age distribution of rural veterans. Notice that about half of rural veterans are aged 65 and up.

The chart also shows how the proportion of rural veterans rises dramatically as the population gets older. Only about 3% of rural young adults are veterans. For rural residents aged 65 and up, 25% are.

The second chart expresses some of this same information in a slightly different way. The blue line shows the number of rural veterans. The scale is in millions and is located on the left side of the graph. The number declines over the years.

reports that Veterans Affairs agencies have falsified records to disguise unacceptably long wait times underscore this problem.)  

The ERS report notes that “20% of rural, working-age veterans report disability status compared with 11 percent of nonveterans.”