Did Vietnam Veterans Get Sicker in the 1990s? The Complicated Effects of Military Service on Self-Reported Health
The veterans disability compensation (VDC) program, which provides a monthly stipend to disabled veterans, is the third largest American disability insurance program. Since the late 1990s, VDC growth has been driven primarily by an increase in claims from Vietnam veterans, raising concerns about costs as well as health. We use the draft lottery to study the long-term effects of Vietnam-era military service on health and work in the 2000 Census. These estimates show no significant overall effects on employment or work-related disability status, with a small effect on non-work-related disability for whites. On the other hand, estimates for white men with low earnings potential show a large negative impact on employment and a marked increase in non-work-related disability rates. The differential impact of Vietnam-era service on low-skill men cannot be explained by more combat or war-theatre exposure for the least educated, leaving the relative attractiveness of VDC for less skilled men and the work disincentives embedded in the VDC system as a likely explanation.
This study was conducted while the authors were Special Sworn Status researchers of the U.S. Census Bureau at the Boston Research Data Center. Research results and conclusions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Census Bureau. This paper has been screened to ensure that no confidential data are revealed. Special thanks go to B.K. Atrostic, Jim Davis, and Brian Holly for help with the data used in this study, and to David Autor for helpful discussions and comments. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Angrist, Joshua D. & Chen, Stacey H. & Frandsen, Brigham R., 2010. "Did Vietnam veterans get sicker in the 1990s? The complicated effects of military service on self-reported health," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 824-837, December. citation courtesy of