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Did Vietnam veterans get sicker in the 1990s? The complicated effects of military service on self-reported health

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  • Angrist, Joshua D.
  • Chen, Stacey H.
  • Frandsen, Brigham R.

Abstract

The veterans disability compensation (VDC) program, which provides a monthly stipend to disabled veterans, is the third largest American disability insurance program. Since the late 1990s, VDC growth has been driven primarily by an increase in claims from Vietnam veterans, raising concerns about costs as well as health. We use the draft lottery to study the long-term effects of Vietnam-era military service on health and work in the 2000 Census. We find no evidence that military service affected overall employment rates or overall work-limiting disability rates (that is, health conditions that make work difficult). At the same time, military service sharply increased federal transfer income, especially for lower skilled white men, among whom there was also a large negative impact on employment and a marked increase in disability rates. The differential impact of Vietnam-era service on low-skilled men cannot be explained by more combat or war-theatre exposure for the least educated, because high school graduates were at least as likely to be exposed to combat or war theatre as the less-educated. This leaves the relative attractiveness of VDC for less-skilled men and the work disincentives embedded in the VDC system as a likely explanation for our findings.

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  • Angrist, Joshua D. & Chen, Stacey H. & Frandsen, Brigham R., 2010. "Did Vietnam veterans get sicker in the 1990s? The complicated effects of military service on self-reported health," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 824-837, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:11-12:p:824-837
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    1. Carlos Dobkin & Reza Shabani, 2009. "The Health Effects Of Military Service: Evidence From The Vietnam Draft," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(1), pages 69-80, January.
    2. Mark Duggan & Robert Rosenheck & Perry Singleton, 2006. "Federal Policy and the Rise in Disability Enrollment: Evidence for the VA's Disability Compensation Program," NBER Working Papers 12323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Daniel Eisenberg & Brian Rowe, 2008. "The Effects of Smoking in Young Adulthood on Smoking and Health Later in Life: Evidence Based on the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery," Working Papers 08-35, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    4. Angrist, Joshua D, 1990. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records: Errata," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1284-1286, December.
    5. Kelly Bedard & Olivier DeschĂȘnes, 2006. "The Long-Term Impact of Military Service on Health: Evidence from World War II and Korean War Veterans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 176-194, March.
    6. Dan Black & Kermit Daniel & Seth Sanders, 2002. "The Impact of Economic Conditions on Participation in Disability Programs: Evidence from the Coal Boom and Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 27-50, March.
    7. Angrist, Joshua & Chen, Stacey, 2008. "Long-Term Economic Consequences of Vietnam-Era Conscription: Schooling, Experience and Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 3628, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. John Bound & Timothy Waidmann, 1992. "Disability Transfers, Self-Reported Health, and the Labor Force Attachment of Older Men: Evidence from the Historical Record," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1393-1419.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Military service PTSD Disability insurance Health Employment;

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H59 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Other
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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