Kenneth L. Stewart
With joy, the 4th of July celebration returned to the downtown River stage this year. The return of the city’s spectacular Independence Day Gala illustrates why the State of Texas named San Angelo a Music Friend City in 2019. The Air Force Band of the West’s scheduled performance also reminds us that the town has been recognized twice as a military town. -friendly city through the Air Force Air Education and Training Command.
While the support and resources of Goodfellow AFB motivated these latest awards, the city’s reputation as a military-friendly community is not lost on veterans. I decided to assess the status of the veteran population for this July 4th, precisely because the community is happy to express its support for the military.
Positive baseline demographics
Basic demographic indicators support the idea that a community sentiment favorable to the military applies to local veterans. For example, more than 8,800 veterans live in San Angelo and Tom Green County, according to the most recent Census Bureau estimates for 2019. As a percentage, the number suggests that the local community is home to more veterans, 10% of the adult population. , than Texas (6.5%) or the nation as a whole (6.9%). In short, San Angelo and Tom Green County attract more than an average share of veterans as a place to live after the end of military service.
Another core indicator shows that the community is positively advancing the education level of ex-combatants. The military itself promotes the education of its troops, and Angelo State University is an consistently recognized and military-friendly higher education institution.
Educational milestones achieved by the local veteran population reflect these benefits. Census data shows that about 5.2% of veterans aged 25 and over had not completed high school, and 24.1% had gone no further than completing their degree. secondary school in 2019. The comparable ratios for all residents of Tom Green County aged 25 and over were significantly higher at 12.8% and 30.3%, respectively.
Of course, the relatively lower percentage of veterans who have only completed high school means that more veterans have reached higher educational milestones. Data indicates that about 44.7% of local veterans have completed at least part of college or earned an associate’s degree. Another 26% obtained a bachelor’s or graduate degree. The corresponding proportions at the county level were lower at 32.7% and 24.1% in 2019.
Veterans’ employment outcomes
The year 2020 has been a difficult time for employers to keep workers at work, as it has been for workers to find and keep stable employment. Yet the most recent data on the situation of veterans during the pandemic indicates that they have generally fared better than other workers.
Last March, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics released data showing that the national veterans unemployment rate more than doubled from 3.1% to 6.5% between 2019 and 2020. But a larger increase occurred among non-veterans, from 3.6% in 2019 to 8%. in 2020. The year of the pandemic teaches us that veteran status increases job security in the US labor markets.
Realizing that the challenges veterans face in transitioning to civilian work are a constant concern for policymakers, the Census Bureau developed and released a data set on employment outcomes for veterans in December 2020. L The VEO dataset focused on the 2018 earnings of more than 730,000 U.S. Army veterans who enlisted and were discharged after completing their initial military service between 2000 and 2015.
Combining national data from VEO with additional 2018 data on the incomes of full-time workers in Tom Green County reveals some income results that could potentially favor veterans in the local labor market. First, the data combined shows that veterans working full-time across the country are more equally employed in all industries than full-time workers in our civilian workforce. About 48.1% of veterans, compared with just 38.3% of local civilian workers, are employed in a group of nine industries with median wages higher than the overall median wage level of $ 39,720 for all workers at full-time in the 2018 local job market. The nine industries focus on agriculture, oil and gas production, wholesale trade, transportation, utilities, and a range of professional services.
Opposite the nine highest-paying industries are eight groups focused on construction, manufacturing, retail, rental and leasing, administration, education, health, social support, accommodation and food services. Combined data indicates that these industries employ 60.9% of local full-time workers, but only about 47.3% of veterans across the country.
In addition, the combined data shows that the incomes of veterans are more equal in all industries compared to the income gap that exists among local civilian workers. Nationally, veterans in the nine highest-paying industries earned a median of $ 51,517, about 46% more than the median salary of $ 35,324 for veterans in the eight lowest-paying industries. In comparison, the median for local civilian workers in high-wage industries ($ 56,002) was about 69% higher than the median of $ 33,220 for local workers in low-wage industries.
It is important to reiterate that these comparisons are based on a national sample of US Army enlisted veterans who completed their first tour of duty after 2000. The comparisons apply to the local labor market only in The extent to which the employment results of Tom Green County veterans, regardless of line of service or period of service, align with the patterns revealed in the VEO data set. More detailed future data may be able to accurately determine the degree of alignment between employment outcomes at national and local levels.
Veterans, poverty and disability
The fact that 10.7% of local ex-combatants lived in poverty in 2019 is a surprising data point given the above review of educational opportunities and labor market outcomes. The veteran poverty rate was roughly equal to a 10.9% level among all adults in Tom Green County, and well above the 6.7% rate for veterans in Texas and the country.
Approximately 2,356 of the 8,849 Tom Green County veterans were living with a disability in 2019. This translates into a disability rate of 26.6% and compares to a disability rate of 19% among those over 84,500 county adults that year.
Disability increases the risk of falling into poverty in most communities. Specifically, the local link is stronger in the general adult population than among veterans. In 2019, a poverty rate of 22% among people with disabilities aged 18 and over was more than double the poverty rate of 10.9% among the general adult population. In contrast, the 15.5% rate among disabled veterans was slightly 5 percentage points lower than the 10.7% rate for all local veterans living in poverty.
Frustrating qualification processes are notorious obstacles for people with disabilities seeking help. Nonetheless, different disability systems are important social determinants of the disparate risk of poverty between ex-combatants and other adults. The difference begins with how disability is defined by the Social Security Administration versus the Veteran’s Administration.
VA benefits relate to disabilities linked to service acquired, or at least aggravated, by military service. Compensation is based on a graduated scale measuring the severity of a condition on a 100 point scale. Veterans with multiple disabilities may receive more benefits. Although the VA can revoke the benefits of veterans involved in illegal conduct, the payments can last a lifetime. While civilians without military service are excluded from VA disability assistance, eligible veterans may participate in the SSA disability system covering the general civilian population.
The SSA system qualifies individuals based on their inability to participate in the labor market. Social Security Disability Insurance, applicants must establish a previous work record and show that they cannot continue working or adapt to alternative work. Applicants must also document that their disability has lasted, or is expected to last, one year in the future, or result in death. ASS’s means-tested supplemental security income system provides assistance to low-income adults without an established work record, but SSI applicants must prove that the disability precludes participation in any work that generates a level of employment. minimum income.
Census Bureau data indicates that about 98% of Tom Green County’s 2,356 disabled veterans were qualified for service-related conditions in 2019, and more than half (55%) had VA disability scores of 50 or more on the 100 point scale. At the same time, data from the ASS showed that only 21.7% of the county’s 16,102 disabled adults were receiving SSDI or SSI benefits.
What it means to celebrate the veterans
Now is the time to be proud of our military-friendly community and to express fervent gratitude for the sacrifices of soldiers, veterans and military families. As we celebrate, however, a recognition that the nation is asking for these sacrifices in order to ensure that the American people thrive in security and freedom should not be lost. In keeping with this mission, we must seek a friendly community that helps every American of all classes, creeds and colors to thrive, just as our military friendship helps veterans thrive.
Contact Kenneth L. Stewart at [email protected]
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