The veteran community has always shared a general sense of the positive elements of what they brought to their communities as a result of their experiences in uniform, and now a new report has quantified the value of them.
The 2015 Veterans Civic Health Index, created by Got Your Six and a handful of other veteran-focused organizations, was released to the public today at an event at The National Press Club featuring Secretary Robert A. McDonald of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D - Hawaii). Key findings include the following:
- Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually – 25 percent more than non-veteran volunteers.
- Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix neighborhood problems, and fill community leadership roles.
- 7 percent of veterans are involved in civic groups compared to just 5.8 percent of non-vets.
- 48 percent of veteran always vote in elections – 16 percent more than non-veterans.
- 62.5 percent of veterans trust their neighbors compared to 55.1 percent of non-veterans.
The report defines "civic health" as "a community's capacity to work together to resolve collective problems" and goes on to say that it impacts local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, among other benefits that strengthen communities.
VA Secretary McDonald wasn't surprised by the report's positive findings and attributes the results to veterans' sense of respect for others over themselves.
"Deep down we all feel a sense of inadequacy which we deal with by associating with others we respect," he said. "And among veterans there's always someone who commands more respect than ourselves. If you're a clerk it's the infantryman. If you're an infantryman, it's the combat veteran. If you're a combat veteran, it's the wounded warrior. And if you're a wounded warrior, it's the fallen soldier."
Got Your 6 officials said they released this study as part of their ongoing effort to combat common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America's returning servicemen and women.
"The civilian population has a misconception that veterans are 'broken,' disconnected, and unable to cope with civilian life," Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin said. "The reality is much more complex."
The public perceives that veterans are unemployed, homeless, and undereducated, but the report claims that over the past eight years, veterans have consistently earned more than their non-veteran counterparts, that veterans only comprise 8.6 percent of the current homeless population, and that veterans who participate in the GI Bill program complete their degree programs at a similar rate to the general population's traditional postsecondary student.
"As a combat wounded veteran I've experience many different reactions to my service," Marvin said. "The ones that rub me the wrong way are ones that focus on my deficits or treat me like a charity case. The ones that resonate the most are the ones that challenge me."
An infographic of the entire report can be seen here.