Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Labor Force Status of Vietnam-Era Veterans

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Labor Force Status of Vietnam-Era Veterans

Article excerpt

Labor force status of Vietnam-era veterans

A decade after the war's end, the labor force status of Vietnam-era veterans is generally quite similar to that of nonveterans. There are exceptions, however. Those who served in the Vietnam theater (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and the surrounding airspace and waters), and most particularly those who received disabiling injuries from combat and other causes, have higher unemployment rates and lower labor force participation rates than their peers.

In 1985, data were collected for the first time on the labor force status of men who actually served in Southeast Asia, distinguishing between those with and without service-connected disabilities. The data confirm the precarious circumstances of disabled veterans, who are especially vulnerable to unemployment.

The information is from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of about 59,500 households conducted and tabulated by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a supplement to the April 1985 survey, men 18 years and older were asked about their service in the Armed Forces and whether they had a service-connected disability.1 (See appendix for information on the types of questions asked.) The supplement was cosponsored by the Veterans Administration (VA) and two Department of Labor agencies--the Veterans Employment and Training Service and the BLS.2

Overall picture

Our Nation's 26.2 million male veterans account for nearly one-third of all men 18 years and older. The 7.9 million Vietnam-era veterans are the youngest wartime participants and the second largest veterans' group, exceeded only by the 9.7 million veterans of World War II.3 About 2.4 million veterans, or 9 percent, have a service-connected disability. Most served during wartime, with nearly 800,000 having served during the Vietnam era.

In this study, the Vietnam-era veterans are those men who served in the Armed Forces anywhere during the Nation's longest war, from August 1964 to April 1975, and who are currently in the civilian noninstitutional population. Only 46 percent of these veterans actually served in the Vietnam theater of operations. The age distribution of veterans of the Vietnam era is relatively concentrated, with two-thirds between ages 35 and 44 in April 1985. Indeed, one-half were between ages 35 and 39. (Because of the aging of the population, there were no longer any Vietnam-era veterans under age 25.) The following tabulation shows the age distribution of Vietnam-theater and other Vietnam-era veterans and nonveterans in the civilian noninstitutional population in April 1985.

Many misperceptions surround the men who served during the Vietnam era.4 For example, contrary to popular belief, most were not drafted, but volunteered for military service. In 1968, the year with the largest number on active duty, just 40 percent of all enlisted new entrants were draftees.5 Another myth is that minorities constituted a disproportionate share of our military forces. In fact, blacks make up 9 percent of Vietnam-era veterans (11 percent of Vietnam-theater veterans), and Hispanics account for 4 percent of these veterans. The black share of the adult male population is about 10 percent, and the Hispanic share is 6 percent.

Men who served in Southeast Asia accounted for two-thirds of the nearly 800,000 Vietnam-era veterans who reported a service-connected disability. Their disability is rated from 0 to 100 percent, representing the "average impairment in earning capacity' in civilian occupations resulting from diseases and injuries caused or aggravated by military service.6 About half had disability ratings of less than 30 percent.

Labor force

Veterans of the Vietnam era are now in their prime working ages, and 7.5 million of a total of 7.9 million were in the labor force in April 1985. Being a large segment of their generation, they account for more than 1 of 4 men in the labor force between the ages of 30 and 44. …

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