Though we honor members of the military – and former members – each year with a national Veteran’s Day, it’s unlikely most people know how many veterans there are in the United States today, how many are typically younger and how many are well into their senior years. Using some new data from the federal Census Bureau, we found some interesting facts.

At the end of 2010, there were nearly 22 million vets – both active and inactive. Of that, about 1.5 million are women, 2.4 million black, 1.2 million Hispanic, 265,000 Asian and 156,000 American Indian or Alaska Native.

Not surprisingly, many are older – 9 million over age 65. About 1.7 million are younger than 35. The difference between those numbers – about 6 million – is important because many of those are considered career military. That means if they serve until retirement, costs associated with that – retirement pay, medical care, dependent costs, travel entitlements, long term care – will be large factors in future federal and some state budgets.

There are about 7.6 million living Viet Nam era vets. Some 35% of all living veterans served during the official term of the war – 1964-1975.

Texas, Florida and California each have more than a million vets living there. The state with the highest percentage of residents 18 years and older qualifying as veterans was Alaska with 14.1%. Significantly higher than any continental U.S. state.

One Census Bureau finding surprised me. In the 2008 Presidential election, 15.8 million veterans cast ballots. Now that’s a significant voting block you never hear mentioned by the pundits. It would be interesting to see how that number broke down for the two major political parties. More Republican, I’d expect.

Also, in the off-year 2010 congressional election, 12.4 million vets voted which is a much higher percentage than the public at large. Again, some voting numbers that should hardly be ignored by politicians.

But the most surprising information to me was this. The annual median income of veterans – in 2010 adjusted dollars – was $35,367. For the American population as a whole, the figure was about $10,000 less.

So it would seem service members – and retired members – are in pretty good financial shape, right? Well, 26% of all veterans qualified for poverty status with a disability in 2010. 26%! Seems to me that’s a terribly significant figure, too. And nothing to be proud about.

From a statistical viewpoint, all this data is sort of interesting. But some of it is going to change – and change radically – in the near future.

We’re used to counting the number of former military who have lost an arm or a leg; who’ve been paralyzed by a war wound; who’ve had some other major bodily injury. But we’ve only recently become concerned with all those injuries we can’t see – the ones inside the head. PTSD we call it or other clinical terms. They look good in their uniforms or their civies, but they’re carrying life-changing – and often violent – behaviors inside.

As we recognize and treat more of these newly emerging veteran casualties, the costs of war and the statistics of survival will change tremendously. We are going to need a restructured Veteran’s Administration health system to expand care for mental health issues – many of which are, and will continue to be, long term. And very, very expensive.

Because of drone attack planes and other computer-based marvels replacing a lot of “boots on the ground,” we may see some of the costs directly related to weapons systems reduced as we need fewer aircraft carriers, fewer super and hypersonic planes. But the human costs – ones we didn’t recognize before and didn’t count as “injuries of war” – those costs are bound to increase.

It we’re going to continue to lure our young into a future military, we are honor-bound as a nation to be there for them when their mission’s done – especially the ones who come back with war wounds seen and unseen.

At the moment, nearly 22 million Americans qualify for the highly honorable term “veteran.” Judging by some of the statistics from the Census Bureau, we haven’t done a great job with the responsibility we already have.

Have a good Veteran’s Day.

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