A young veteran dressed in camouflage focuses on the camera while an American flag hangs in the background

Research Center

ALICE In Focus Series

Veterans in Financial Hardship

Because U.S. military veterans have served and sacrificed for this country, there is a national sense of responsibility to ensure that their basic needs are met. And overall, veterans have fared better economically than nonveterans. Yet not everyone has been included in that trend: In 2019, a substantial 4.6 million veterans — 27% — still struggled to make ends meet across the U.S.

According to the outdated Federal Poverty Level (FPL), 6% of veterans in the U.S. lived in poverty in 2019. But United For ALICE data shows that another 21% — more than three times as many — were also struggling, in households that earned above the FPL but less than what it costs to afford the basics. These households are ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

Combining families in poverty and those who are ALICE, more than one-quarter (27%) of all veterans lived in a household with income below the ALICE Threshold in 2019, struggling to afford essentials in the communities where they lived.

The tabs below offer a more detailed view of veterans experiencing financial hardship.

Additional Resources on Veterans and Financial Hardship

As outlined in detail in United For ALICE's report The Consequences of Insufficient Household Income, living in a household that is struggling financially impacts all aspects of a person’s life — from housing stability and food security, to access to quality education and technology. These issues are often compounded by persistent discrimination and systemic barriers that limit access to resources and opportunities for financial stability for many veterans and their families.

Key resources related to veterans and financial hardship are included below, offering important context and even deeper analysis. This list includes the references linked in our ALICE in Focus: Veterans Research Brief, as well as additional resources on topics from the ALICE Veterans Data Dashboard.


General Financial Hardship

Bennett, J. (2019, December 9). Veteran households in the U.S. are economically better off than those of non-veterans. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/09/veteran-households-in-u-s-are-economically-better-off-than-those-of-non-veterans

Blue Star Families. (2021). Pulse check: Military and veteran families’ financial needs. Retrieved from https://bluestarfam.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/BSF_PulseCheck_Report_Mar2021.pdf

Blue Star Families. (2022.) 2021 Military family lifestyle survey comprehensive report. Retrieved from https://bluestarfam.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/BSF_MFLS_Results2021_ComprehensiveReport_3_22.pdf

Fox, M. (2019, July 3). Predatory lenders prey on military members. Here’s how to avoid being victimized. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/03/how-military-members-can-protect-themselves-from-predatory-lenders.html

Gallagher Robins, K. & Ravi, A. (2017, September 19). Veterans living paycheck to paycheck are under threat during budget debates. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/article/veterans-living-paycheck-paycheck-threat-budget-debates

Demographic Trends: Sex/Age/Race/Ethnicity

Disability Status

Bilmes, L.J. (2021, August 18). The long-term costs of United States care for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Watson Institute at Brown University. Retrieved from https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2021/Costs%20of%20War_Bilmes_Long-Term%20Costs%20of%20Care%20for%20Vets_Aug%202021.pdf

National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics. (2020, May). VA Utilization Profile FY 2017. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/Quickfacts/VA_Utilization_Profile_2017.pdf

Reese, B. (2021, March 22). Automatic 50 PTSD rating explained. VA Claims Insider. Retrieved from https://vaclaimsinsider.com/automatic-50-ptsd-rating

Social Security Administration. (2022). What is Supplemental Security Income? 2022 edition. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi

Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability benefits: How you qualify. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/qualify.html

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). About VA disability ratings. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/about-disability-ratings

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Past rates: 2019 Veterans disability compensation rates. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/compensation-rates/veteran-rates/past-rates-2019

Vespa, J. (2020, June 2). Post-9/11 veterans more likely to have a service-connected disability. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2020/06/who-are-the-nations-veterans.html


Careers in the Military. (n.d.). Learn about your options: Basic enlistment requirements. Retrieved from https://www.careersinthemilitary.com/options-enlistment-requirements

Oliff, P., Brees, S. & Bhattarai, R. (2022, September 22). Why veterans with GI Bill benefits still take out student loans. Pew Charitable Trusts. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2022/01/07/why-veterans-with-gi-bill-benefits-still-take-out-student-loans

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). VA education and training benefits. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/education

Wenger, J.W. & Ward, J.M. (2022). The role of education benefits in supporting veterans as they transition to civilian life. Rand Corporation. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.7249/PEA1363-4

Work Status

ADA National Network. (n.d.). Employment data for veterans with disabilities. Retrieved from https://adata.org/factsheet/employment-data-veterans-disabilities

American Network of Community Options and Resources. (n.d.). The state of America’s direct support workforce 2021. Retrieved from https://www.ancor.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/the_state_of_americas_direct_support_workforce_crisis_2021.pdf

Burke, J. & Miller, A. (2016). The effects of military change-of-station moves on spousal earnings. RAND Corporation. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.7249/RB9920

Desilver, D. (2017, September 19). How veterans and non-veterans fare in the U.S. job market. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/17/how-veterans-and-non-veterans-fare-in-the-u-s-job-market

Hostetter, M. & Klein, S. (2021, July 1). Placing a higher value on direct care workers. The Commonwealth Fund. Retrieved from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/2021/jul/placing-higher-value-direct-care-workers

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2021, October 8). In focus groups, direct care workers and unpaid caregivers describe low-wage, physically-challenging work that is often mentally overwhelming and marked by uncertainty [press release]. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicaid/press-release/in-focus-groups-direct-care-workers-and-unpaid-caregivers-describe-low-wage-physically-challenging-work-that-is-often-mentally-overwhelming-and-marked-by-uncertainty

Kassraie, A. (2022, January 12). New AARP Job Center helps veterans, military spouses get work. AARP. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/home-family/voices/veterans/info-2022/job-center.html

Maury, R. V., Linsner, R. K., Zoli, C. & Fay, D. (2020, March). Women in the military: Transition, employment, higher education after service [infographic]. Institute for Military and Veteran Families at Syracuse University. Retrieved from https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/article/women-in-the-military

Military One Source. (n.d.). 2019 active-duty spouses survey. Retrieved from https://www.militaryonesource.mil/data-research-and-statistics/survey-findings/2019-spouses-survey

National Conference of State Legislatures. (2019, July). A path to employment for veterans with disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/Military_Veterans/Veteran-Employment_v04.pdf

PHI. (2020, September 8). Direct care workers in the United States: Key facts. Retrieved from http://www.phinational.org/resource/direct-care-workers-in-the-united-states-key-facts

Yoe, J. (2019, July). Why are older people working longer? Monthly Labor Review. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2019/beyond-bls/why-are-older-people-working-longer.htm

Service Era

Gerstner, L. & Lankford, K. (2022, September 16). 10 best benefits for military members and their families. Kiplinger. Retrieved from https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/saving/t065-s000-10-best-financial-benefits-for-military-families/index.html

Moore, E. (2020, March 31). Women in combat: Five-year status update. Center for a New American Security. Retrieved from https://www.cnas.org/publications/commentary/women-in-combat-five-year-status-update

My Army Benefits. (n.d.). Retired pay: Benefit fact sheet. U.S. Army. Retrieved from https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/Benefit-Library/Federal-Benefits/Retired-Pay?serv=128


Batko, S., Solari, C.D. & DuBois, N. (2021, August). The value of ending veteran and chronic homelessness in four communities: A framework for measuring community-wide costs and benefits. Urban Institute. Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/104640/the-value-of-ending-veteran-and-chronic-homelessness-in-four-communities.pdf

Devito, E. (2021, December 8). Removing barriers to veteran homeownership [Statement before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity]. Veterans of Foreign Wars. Retrieved from https://www.vfw.org/advocacy/national-legislative-service/congressional-testimony/2021/12/removing-barriers-to-veteran-homeownership

Edelberg, W., Estep, S., Lu, S. & Moss, E. (2021, April). A comparison of renters and homeowners in recent decades. The Hamilton Project. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/A-Comparison-of-Renters-and-Homeowners-in-Recent-Decades-2.pdf

Fischer, W. (2019, November 7). Rental assistance shortage leaves 700,000 veterans homeless or struggling to afford housing. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from https://www.cbpp.org/blog/rental-assistance-shortage-leaves-700000-veterans-homeless-or-struggling-to-afford-housing

Lake, J., Novack, V. & Ives-Rublee, M. (2021, May 27). Recognizing and addressing housing insecurity for disabled renters. The Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/article/recognizing-addressing-housing-insecurity-disabled-renters

Montgomery, A.E., Szymkowiak, D. & Tsai, J. (2020, February 17). Housing instability and homeless program use among veterans: The intersection of race, sex, and homelessness. Housing Policy Debate. Retrieved from: https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Housing-Instability-and-Homeless-Program-Use-Among-Veterans-The-Intersection-of-Race-Sex-and-Homelessness.pdf

Stasha, S. (2020, August 4). How many veterans are homeless in the U.S. 2022. Policy Advice. Retrieved from https://policyadvice.net/insurance/insights/homeless-veterans-statistics/

Strochak, S., Choi, J.H. & Goodman, L. (2020, February 26). Evidence shows military services reduces the racial homeownership gap. Urban Institute. Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/evidence-shows-military-service-reduces-racial-homeownership-gap

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2022, March 23). VA home loans. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/index.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022, July 18). Loan volume by state [FY 2019]. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/lender_state_volume.asp

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2018, June). Homelessness in America: Focus on veterans. Retrieved from https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/Homelessness_in_America._Focus_on_Veterans.pdf


Atske, S. & Perrin, A. (2021, July 16). Home broadband adoption, computer ownership vary by race, ethnicity in the U.S. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/07/16/home-broadband-adoption-computer-ownership-vary-by-race-ethnicity-in-the-u-s

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2018, October 24). What are some types of assistive devices and how are they used? Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/rehabtech/conditioninfo/device

Perrin, A. & Atske, S. (2021, September 10). Americans with disabilities less likely than those without to own some digital devices. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/09/10/americans-with-disabilities-less-likely-than-those-without-to-own-some-digital-devices

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (n.d.). Rural Veteran Health Care Challenges. Retrieved from https://www.ruralhealth.va.gov/aboutus/ruralvets.asp

Vogels, E.A. (2021, August 19). Some digital divides persist between rural, urban and suburban America. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/08/19/some-digital-divides-persist-between-rural-urban-and-suburban-america

Public Assistance

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2022, October 24). A quick guide to SNAP eligibility and benefits. Retrieved from https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/a-quick-guide-to-snap-eligibility-and-benefits

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. (n.d.). What are benefits cliffs? Retrieved from https://www.atlantafed.org/economic-mobility-and-resilience/advancing-careers-for-low-income-families/what-are-benefits-cliffs

Lutz, J. & Welsh, C. (2022, June 1). Solving food insecurity among U.S. veterans and military families. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/solving-food-insecurity-among-us-veterans-and-military-families

Minton, S., Giannarelli, L. (2019, February). Five things you may not know about the U.S. social safety net. Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99674/five_things_you_may_not_know_about_the_us_social_safety_net_1.pdf

Rabbitt, M. P. & Smith, M.D. (2021, May). Food insecurity among working-age veterans. Economic Research Report No. ERR-829. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=101268

Sturm, D. (2021, November). Do pandemic benefits decrease demand for charitable food? Maryland Food Bank. Retrieved from https://mdfoodbank.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Maryland-Food-Bank-Pandemic-Research-Brief-Nov2021.pdf

Informing the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. (2022). Task force report: Ambitious, actionable recommendation to end hunger, advance nutrition, and improve health in the United States. Retrieved from https://informingwhc.org/2022-task-force-report

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Past rates: 2019 Veterans disability compensation rates. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/compensation-rates/veteran-rates/past-rates-2019

Ziliak, J.P. & Gunderson, C. (2022, May). The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2020: An Annual Report. Feeding America. Retrieved from https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2022-05/The%20State%20of%20Senior%20Hunger%20in%202020_Full%20Report%20w%20Cover.pdf

Health/Impact of the Pandemic

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2016, October 7). What are my rights under the Military Lending Act? Retrieved from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-are-my-rights-under-the-military-lending-act-en-1783

Fox, M. (2019, July 3). Predatory lenders prey on military members. Here’s how to avoid being victimized. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/03/how-military-members-can-protect-themselves-from-predatory-lenders.html

Fletcher, K., McDaniel, J., Thomas, K., Scaffa, M., Albright, D., Alsheri, M. & Anthony, J. Transition services utilization among U.S. women veterans: A secondary analysis of a national survey. Journal of Veterans Studies, 8(1), 164–174. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.21061/jvs.v8i1.299

Gujral, K., Van Campen, J., Jacobs, J. et.al. (2022, April 6). "Mental health service use, suicide behavior, and emergency department visits among rural U.S. veterans who received video-enabled tablets during the COVID-19 pandemic," Jama Network, Open; 5(4). Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2790743

Malick, S., Sandoval, M., & Santiago, T. (2021, November 10). Hidden helpers at the frontlines of caregiving: Supporting the healthy development of children from military and caregiving homes. Mathematica. Retrieved from https://www.mathematica.org/publications/hidden-helpers-at-the-frontlines-of-caregiving-supporting-the-healthy-development-of-children

National Council on Disability. (2021, October 29). 2021 Progress report: The impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. Retrieved from https://ncd.gov/progressreport/2021/2021-progress-report

Novotney, A. (2020, January 1). Stopping military and veteran suicides. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/01/ce-corner-suicide

Rand Corporation. (2019). Improving the quality of mental health care for veterans: Lessons from RAND Research. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB10087.html.

Sharp, M., Serfioti, D., Jones, M., Burdett, H., Pernet, D., Hull, L., Murphy, D., Wessely, S. & Fear, N.T. (2021, August) UK veterans’ mental health and well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal cohort study. BMJ Open 11(8). https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/8/e049815

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). VA/DoD Health Affairs: VA & TRICARE Information. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/VADODHEALTH/TRICARE.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). VA health care. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/health-care

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). How Common is PTSD in Veterans? Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_veterans.asp

The White House. (2022, August 10). Fact Sheet: President Biden signs the PACT Act and delivers on his promise to America’s veterans [press release]. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/08/10/fact-sheet-president-biden-signs-the-pact-act-and-delivers-on-his-promise-to-americas-veterans

Data Resources

American Community Survey. (2019). 1-year estimates [Public use microdata sample (PUMS)]. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/microdata/access.html

Berghammer, L., Fontes Marx, M., Odom, E. & Chisolm, N. (2022). 2021 Annual Warrior Survey, Longitudinal: Wave 1. Wounded Warrior Project. Retrieved from https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/media/4ptekte3/2021-report-of-findings.pdf

Boyd, A. (2021, October 7). VA officials and lawmakers have (different) issues with push to collect more veteran data. Retrieved from https://www.nextgov.com/analytics-data/2021/10/va-officials-and-lawmakers-have-different-issues-push-collect-more-veteran-data/185936

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.). Occupational employment statistics: May 2019 occupational employment and wage estimates. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/2019/may/oessrcst.htm

Department of Defense. (2018). Base structure report – Fiscal year 2018 baseline: A summary of the real property inventory data. Retrieved from https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/Downloads/BSI/Base%20Structure%20Report%20FY18.pdf

Euto, L., Maury, R., Armstrong, N., Stone, B. & Linsner, R. (2020, May). Brief #2: Coronavirus (COVID-19) climate snapshot poll: Top resource needs of veterans and active duty service members. Institute of Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University. Retrieved from https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/IVMF-Brief-2_COVID-19_Summary_6.1.20Accessiblelmr.pdf

Federal Reserve Board. (2022, May). Economic well-being of U.S. households in 2021. Retrieved from https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2021-report-economic-well-being-us-households-202205.pdf

HUD Exchange. (2021, March). 2020 AHAR: Part 1 – PIT estimates of homelessness in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/6291/2020-ahar-part-1-pit-estimates-of-homelessness-in-the-us

National Academies Press. (2019, December 24). Facilities staffing requirements for the Veterans Health Administration – Resource planning and methodology for the future. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555777

The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2021, December 13). Census 2020 undercount: The good, the bad and what we learned. Retrieved from Census 2020 Undercount - The Annie E. Casey Foundation (aecf.org)

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022). Loan volume by State [FY 2019]. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/lender_state_volume.asp