Veterans are men and women who have served (even for a short time), but are not currently serving, on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or the Coast Guard, or who served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II. People who served in the National Guard or Reserves are classified as veterans only if they were ever called or ordered to active duty, not counting the 4-6 months for initial training or yearly summer camps. All other civilians are classified as nonveterans.
While it is possible for 17 year olds to be veterans of the Armed Forces, ACS data products are restricted to the population 18 years and older.
Answers to this question provide specific information about veterans. Veteran status is used to identify people with active duty military service and service in the military Reserves and the National Guard. ACS data define civilian veteran as a person 18 years old and over who served (even for a short time), but is not now serving on acting duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, or who served as a Merchant Marine seaman during World War II. Individuals who have training for Reserves or National Guard but no active duty service are not considered veterans in the ACS. These data are used primarily by the Department of Veterans Affairs to measure the needs of veterans.
Other uses include:
- Used at state and county levels to plan programs for medical and nursing home care for veterans.
- Used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to plan the locations and sizes of veterans' cemeteries.
- Used by local agencies, under the Older Americans Act, to develop health care and other services for elderly veterans.
Used to allocate funds to states and local areas for employment and job training programs for veterans under the Job Training Partnership Act.
For the 1999-2002 American Community Survey, the question was changed to match the Census 2000 item. The response categories were modified by expanding the "No active duty service" answer category to distinguish persons whose only military service was for training in the Reserves or National Guard, from persons with no military experience whatsoever.
Beginning in 2003, the "Yes, on active duty in the past, but not now" category was split into two categories. Veterans are now asked whether or not their service ended in the last 12 months.
There may be a tendency for the following kinds of persons to report erroneously that they served on active duty in the Armed Forces: (a) persons who served in the National Guard or Military Reserves but were never called to duty; (b) civilian employees or volunteers for the USO, Red Cross, or the Department of Defense (or its predecessors, the Department of War and the Department of the Navy); and (c) employees of the Merchant Marine or Public Health Service.
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) was included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations may have period of military service and veteran status distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the period of service and veteran status distributions. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.
The ACS has two separate questions for veteran status and period of military service, whereas in Census 2000, it was a two-part question. The wording for the veteran status question remains the same, however, the response categories have changed over time (see the section "Question/Concept History").
The Group Quarters (GQ) population was included in the 2006 ACS and not included in prior years of ACS data, thus comparisons should be made only if the geographic area of interest does not include a substantial GQ population.
For comparisons to the Current Population Survey (CPS), please see "Comparison of ACS and ASEC Data on Veteran Status and Period of Military Service: 2007."