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Women Veterans Report: The Past, Present and Future of Women Veterans

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Women Veterans Report: The Past, Present and Future of Women Veterans

Since the time of the All-Volunteer Force, the number of women serving in the military has grown. Ultimately, these women make the transition from Service member to Veteran. In 2015, women comprised 9.4 percent of the total Veteran population in the United States. By 2043, women are projected to make up 16.3 percent of all living Veterans. This report summarizes the history of women in the military and as Veterans, profiles the characteristics of women Veterans in 2015, illustrates how women Veterans in 2015 used some of the major benefits and services that are offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and discusses the future of women Veterans in relation to VA. The goal of this report is to communicate an understanding of who our women Veterans are, how their military service affects their post-military lives, and how they can be better served based on these insights.

Data Sources

Various data sources were used in this report. This report includes Veteran Population Projection Model (Vetpop2014),the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) administrative data, USVETS, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) administrative data, National Cemetery Administration (NCA), and data from the Department of Defense (DoD). The reference period for most of the administrative data is fiscal year 2015.

Demographic Characteristics

  • The total population of women Veterans is expected to increase at an average rate of about 18,000 women per year for the next 10 years. Women Veterans currently are and will continue to be an important part of the Veteran community and an important part of VA.
  • Approximately 2 million Veterans in the United States and Puerto Rico were women. Women represented about 9.4 percent of the total Veteran population in 2015.
  • Twenty-five percent of all living women Veterans served only during peace times. Fifty-six percent of all women Veterans have served during the Gulf War Era (August 1990 to the present).
  • The median age of women Veterans in 2015 was 50, compared with 46 for non-Veteran women.
  • In 2015, 19 percent of women Veterans were African American, compared with 12 percent of non-Veteran women. African American women are also overrepresented compared to African American men in the military. In contrast, the percentage of women Veterans who were Hispanic was almost half that of non-Veterans (9 percent compared with 16 percent). The percentage of women Veterans who were Asian is less than half that of non-Veterans (2 percent compared with 5.5 percent).
  • Generally, as the percentage of Hispanics in the general population rises, their representation in the military rises as well, therefore the percentage of Hispanic women Veterans is expected to increase in the future.
  • Women Veterans were more likely to have ever married than non-Veteran women. In 2015, 84 percent of women Veterans were currently married, divorced, widowed, or separated compared with 72 percent of non-Veteran women.
  • In 2015, 23.4 percent of all women Veterans were currently divorced compared with 12.6 percent of non-Veteran women.
  • In 2015, 28.6 percent of all women Veterans under the age of 65 had children 17 years old or younger living at home, and 29.9 percent of non-Veteran women had children 17 years old or younger living at home.

Socioeconomic Characteristics

Twenty-one percent of all women Veterans had a high school diploma or less as their highest level of educational attainment in 2015, compared with 40 percent of non-Veteran women. To join the military now, candidates must have a high school diploma or GED, but that requirement has not always been in place. National C e n t e r for Veterans Analysis and Statistics viii

  • More women Veterans had some college as their highest level of education compared with non-Veteran women (44 percent compared with 32 percent, respectively). Overall, a higher percentage of all women Veterans (34.5 percent) than non-Veterans (28.1 percent) had completed a Bachelor’s or advanced degree.
  • In 2015, working-age women Veterans (i.e., those 17 to 64 years old) had a higher labor force participation rate (71.5 percent) than non-Veteran women (70.1 percent).
  • A higher percentage of employed women Veterans 17 to 64 years old worked in the government sector (34 percent) than non-Veteran women (16 percent).
  • Overall, women Veterans were less likely than non-Veteran women to be living in poverty in 2015. About 10 percent of all women Veterans and 15 percent of all non-Veteran women had incomes below the poverty threshold.
  • About 4 percent of women Veterans were uninsured in 2015, compared with 9 percent of non-Veteran women.
  • About 30 percent of insured women Veterans had more than one type of health insurance coverage in 2015, compared with about a 13.9% of non-Veteran women.

Use of VA Benefits and Services

  • In 2015, 840,000 women Veterans used at least one VA benefit or service.
  • The number of women Veterans who used at least one VA benefit or service has steadily grown from 31.2 percent in 2005 to 41.1 percent in 2015.
  • Nearly 5,900 women Veterans received burial and memorial benefits in 2015. Of those, about 2,400 were buried in a VA national cemetery and 3,500 received a headstone or marker for interment in a state or private cemetery. In total, about 47,700 women Veterans have been interred in national cemeteries maintained by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) since 1850. An additional 54,500 women Veterans have received a headstone or marker for interment in a state, private, or other cemetery since 1850.

Use of VA Health Care Services

  • In 2015, 35.9 percent of women Veterans were enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) health care system. Not all women who enroll in the health care system ultimately become health care users.
  • From 2005 to 2015, the number of women Veterans enrolled in VA health care increased 83.9 percent, from 397,024 to 729,989.
  • From 2005 to 2015, the number of women Veterans using VA health care increased 46.4 percent, from 237,952 to 455,875. To put this in perspective, about 13.1 percent of all women Veterans in 2005 used VA health care compared with 22.4 percent of all women Veterans in 2015.

Use of Compensation and Pension Benefits

  • In 2015, 405,418 women Veterans received compensation from VA for a service-connected disability, representing about 20.1 percent of the total population of women Veterans. Fifty-four percent of women Veterans receiving compensation had a combined disability rating of 50 percent or higher.
  • The top four primary service-connected conditions for women Veterans (post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, migraines and lower back pain) accounted for 29.9 percent of all service-connected disabilities for women Veterans in 2015.
  • About 6 percent of women Veterans who received compensation for a service-connected disability were receiving Individual Unemployability compensation in 2015. This represents about 1.3 percent of the total women Veteran population. Individual Unemployability is a component of VA’s disability compensation benefit program which allows Veterans to receive financial compensation at the 100-percent level even though their total service-connected disability rating is below 100 percent. National Center for Vetereans Analysis and S t a t i s ti cs ix

Use of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program

  • Roughly 21 percent of Veterans participating in the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education (VR&E) program in 2015 were women (27,083 out of 131,607). Participants are defined as Veterans in any of the following stages of the vocational rehabilitation process: extended evaluation, independent living, job-ready status, and rehabilitation-to-employment.

Use of Education Benefits

  • In 2015, 149,375 women Veterans used education benefits. This represented about 7.4 percent of the total population of women Veterans. Roughly from age 25 to 34 years old.
To read the full report, visit: https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/SpecialReports/Women_Veterans_2015_Final.pdf

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