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Nearly 23 million Americans living today have served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces—1.3 million of whom are currently on active duty[1] and 21.6 million retired.[2] Our health and well-being in many ways are dependent on the service of these men and women who have risked their lives for the safety and security of our nation and its people. However, how much do we know and understand about their health and well-being?
Those who have served are an evolving population group facing a unique set of circumstances and needs. Following a gradual decline in population size over the past three decades, the number of veterans in America is projected to decrease to 17 million by 2024.[2] At the same time, the median age of veterans will rise, and they are projected to be more likely than non-veterans to be diagnosed with many chronic health conditions. Further, the proportion of female veterans is projected to increase from 8% to 11% between 2014 and 2024. With this increase, the burden of health conditions more common among women is also likely to rise. In addition, veterans are expected to become more racially and ethnically diverse, as the share of non-Hispanic white males in the veteran population is expected to decrease from 80% to 74% from 2014 to 2024.
The health and well-being of veterans are topics of growing concern. In particular, how does service in the U.S. Armed Forces differentially affect the physical and psychosocial health of those who have served? What are the short- and long-term consequences of service in the U.S. Armed Forces for health and health care utilization? How do the health and health care needs of those who have served compare with that of civilians who have never served? And as the active duty and veteran populations evolve, how will their health and health care needs change?


In this report, those who have served are defined as individuals who have ever served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, military Reserves or National Guard. Active duty does not include training for the Reserves or National Guard, but does include activation, for example, for the Persian Gulf War.


America’s Health Rankings Health of Those Who Have Served Report provides a national portrait of the health and well-being of those who have served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. It is intended as a resource for advocates, policymakers, government officials, and constituents at the national, state, and local levels to:
  • Describe the health of those who have served across 24 measures to better understand how service in the U.S. Armed Forces influences behaviors, clinical care, and outcomes overall and in comparison with those who have never served by age, gender, race and ethnicity, and income.
  • Provide a benchmark to monitor trends over time for those who have served overall and in comparison with those who have never served by age, gender, race and ethnicity, and income.
  • Build awareness of the breadth of health issues facing those who have served and how those issues compare with the general population.
  • Stimulate dialogue and action to inform health priorities and improve the health of those who have served, recognizing that the population who has served on active duty is evolving demographically and may face unique health care needs over the next decade.
1. Department of Defense. 2014 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community. Available at: http://www.militaryonesource.mil/footer?content_id=279104. 2. RAND Health. Current and Projected Characteristics and Unique Health Care Needs of the Patient Population Served by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Research Report, 2015. Available at: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1165z1.html.

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