Veterans: Do we need to do more to support them?

Bonus Army presents petitions in Washington DC

A HISTORY OF PROTEST—Demonstrations by groups of veterans are more common than Americans may remember. The most extensive protest was the Bonus Army encampment in Washington D.C. through the spring and summer of 1932 in which 43,000 marchers came to demand a cash payment that was promised to veterans, but was delayed for many years. In the depths of the Great Depression, these World War I veterans were desperate and built a huge encampment in Washington hoping to pressure Congress to turn over the promised cash. President Hoover finally ordered the army to tear down the protesters’ makeshift huts. THIS PHOTO from the Library of Congress collection shows several Bonus March leaders carrying enormous heaps of petitions to lawmakers demanding payments to veterans.

Has the government given veterans the help they need?

There are two sides to this question: what the general public thinks and what veterans themselves think. Is there a disconnect between these two sides?

So far this week, we’ve learned that veterans are actually more resilient than the rest of us, how commercialized Veterans Day has become, the disconnect between civilians and veterans, and how thanking veterans may not be the best way to honor them. Today, we look at another way in which civilians and veterans are disconnected, based on a compilation of survey results reported here.

Back in 1946, Gallup polled veterans to see what they thought about the help they had received from the government. Three of four World War I vets who saw combat felt the government had given them all the help they thought the government should give them. This high percentage is especially noteworthy given that the “help” back then could be $60 and a train ticket home.

About 69% of World War II vets who saw combat felt that the government had given them all the help it should give—and this was at a time when GI benefits had greatly expanded. Almost the same percentage (61%) of veterans in a 2011 Pew survey said the same.

Veterans’ perspectives have not changed much, but the public’s perception has. In 1947, just over half of all Americans (53%) said that veterans’ benefits were adequate. In 2012, however, only 23% said that these benefits were adequate. The majority (58%) felt they were less than adequate.

Today, the majority of Americans say that the government should increase spending on behalf of veterans. For example, nine of ten Americans say that we should increase funding for diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries and mental health problems.

Why do we see this difference in opinion between veterans and civilians?

If you are a vet, do you feel that you, personally, have you received the help from the government that you should?

If you are not a vet, do you think we should do more, less, or about the same when it comes to supporting veterans?

Share this series with friends!

You are free to print out this series and use these columns to spark discussion in your small group—just make sure that you credit Or, share with friends right now by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Series Navigation<< Veterans: Should we stop thanking them?


  1. Tim Richards says

    I am aVietnam veteran. I think that I have received an appropriate level and quality of support from the federal government. I am grateful for this support