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Since October 2001, 1.6 million soldiers have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The largest living veteran population is the 7.9 million soldiers who fought in Vietnam, while the National World War II Museum estimates that there are only about 1.7 million World War II vets left. They die at the rate of 740 per day.
The unemployment rate for veterans was 13.3 percent in June 2011, and for males age 18 to 24 who served in the modern era, that rate is even worse: 21.9 percent. To give those figures some context, keep in mind that the national unemployment rate is a "staggering" 9.1 percent.
The poverty rate for veterans climbed to 7 percent in 2010, according to a new Senate report [PDF]. There are now 1.4 million veterans living below the poverty line and 1.4 million others living barely above it. More than 12 percent of soldiers who served post-9/11 are poor.
According to estimates by the Veterans Administration, about 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And throughout the course of a year, about twice that many will experience homelessness. Of the homeless veterans, a full 56 percent are either black or Latino.
Though the government is trying out new programs to combat post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD remains a problem for tens of thousands of veterans. From 2003 to 2008, 40,000 troops were diagnosed with PTSD, which doesn't count the thousands of others stricken with it from Vietnam, WWII, and other engagements.
Besides PTSD, veterans also come home afflicted with serious depression and head injuries. The RAND Corporation found in 2008 that 19 percent of returning U.S. soldiers reported having possibly received a traumatic brain injury in combat. Beyond that, one in five said that they were experiencing either PTSD or major depression. Sadly, only about half of those suffering with depression said they'd sought out help for it.
With untreated depression abounding in the veteran community, suicide has become a big problem. In 2009 and 2010, more enlisted soldiers and vets killed themselves than died in combat. The suicide rate among veterans is three times higher than the national average, and Vietnam Veterans of America estimates that about 1,000 people per month [PDF] try to kill themselves while under Veterans Administration care.