Overseas Deployment, Combat Exposure, and Well-Being in the 2010 National Survey of Veterans

Ryan D. Edwards

NBER Working Paper No. 18227
Issued in July 2012
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

Recent military engagements in Iraq (OIF) and Afghanistan (OEF) raise questions about the effects on service members of overseas deployment, which can include service in a combat or war zone, exposure to casualties, or both. The 2010 National Survey of Veterans, which asked a broad cross section of living veteran cohorts about deployment to OEF/OIF and combat exposure, provides some new insights into short and long-term relationships between characteristics of military service and outcomes. Analysis of these data suggests that the impacts of deployment and combat on the current socioeconomic well-being of returning OEF/OIF veterans may be relatively small, but the effects of combat exposure on self-reported health and other nonpecuniary indicators of their well-being appear to be negative. Among older veteran cohorts, where there is clearer sorting into treatment and control groups because of strong variation in combat exposure by year of birth, patterns are broadly similar. These results are consistent with a veterans compensation system that replaces lost earnings but does not necessarily compensate for other harms associated with combat exposure such as mental health trauma.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18227

Published: Ryan D. Edwards (2015) "Overseas Deployment, Combat Exposure, and Well-Being in the 2010 National Survey of Veterans," Journal of Human Capital 9(1): 64-93. DOI: 10.1086/680403

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