Veterans are people who once served in the military and left active service in any other way than dishonorably.

Latest update on January 19, 2023
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What are the basics on veterans?

There are many ways to measure the state of veterans in the US: demographics, the services provided, and outcome data, including unemployment rates and educational attainment. This page showcases some of these measures to answer some fundamental questions and directs you to data to develop an understanding of veterans' status today.

Veteran population

In 2022, there were 16.2 million veterans in the US.

As veterans age and die, the US veteran population has declined in recent years.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey includes annual estimates of veterans. According to the Census Bureau, veterans are anyone who has previously served (regardless of the duration of service) in active duty in the armed forces. Relevant armed forces include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. People who served during World War II in the Merchant Marine are veterans, as is anyone in the National Guard or Reserves who has been on active duty. Veterans are not currently serving and are considered civilians.

The estimates include both standard demographic breakdowns of the veteran population (including age, sex, race, and ethnicity) along with the period of service. The number of people who served in the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras has nearly halved since 2010. As a result, there has been a drop in the number of adult civilians who are veterans.

Veteran share of the adult civilian population

In 2022, 6.2% of the adult civilian population was considered veterans.

Census Bureau data shows how the veteran share of the adult civilian population has dropped in recent years. The population share of veterans differs by state, though most have experienced a decline.

Spending on veterans

In fiscal year 2020, governments spent a combined total of $249.4 billion on supporting veterans.

That comes out to $752 per person.

USAFacts categorizes government budget data to allocate spending appropriately, and to arrive at the estimate presented here. Spending on veterans includes support services for housing, readjustment to civilian life, pensions, and medical care. A central agency in providing those benefits is the Veterans Benefits Administration. As the overall veteran population ages, spending on veteran services has increased in recent years. Governments spent about $15,000 per veteran in fiscal year 2020.

Government revenue and expenditures are based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Each is published annually, although due to collection times, state and local government data are not as current as federal data. Thus, when combining federal, state, and local revenues and expenditures, the most recent year for a combined number may be delayed.

Agencies and elected officials

Level of government
Key actors


Department of Veterans Affairs

Manage programs and aid for veterans including hospitals, education grants, employment assistance


State veteran services departments

Provide additional assistance to veterans including benefit information and legal representation

Level of government