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Did Vietnam Veterans Get Sicker in the 1990s? The Complicated Effects of Military Service on Self-Reported Health

Author

Listed:
  • Joshua Angrist
  • Stacey Chen
  • Brigham Frandsen

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. These estimates show no significant overall effects on employment or work-related disability status, with a small effect on non-work-related disability for whites. On the other hand, estimates for white men with low earnings potential show a large negative impact on employment and a marked increase in non-work-related disability rates. The differential impact of Vietnam-era service on low-skill men cannot be explained by more combat or war-theatre exposure for the least educated, leaving the relative attractiveness of VDC for less skilled men and the work disincentives embedded in the VDC system as a likely explanation.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Angrist & Stacey Chen & Brigham Frandsen, 2009. "Did Vietnam Veterans Get Sicker in the 1990s? The Complicated Effects of Military Service on Self-Reported Health," Working Papers 09-19, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:09-19
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2009/CES-WP-09-19.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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.
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    More about this item

    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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