The Changing Characteristics of the Veteran Population: Veteran Population Projection Model 2020


The Veteran Population Projection Model 2020 (VetPop2020) provides the latest official Veteran population projections from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VetPop2020 projects the Veteran population by demographic and military service characteristics such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, period of service, and branch of service at various geographic levels from Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 to 2050. These projections are used by stakeholders internal and external to the VA for strategic, long-term planning and to understand the characteristics of the Veteran population. 
As shown in the visualization above, the Veteran population has steadily declined since FY 2000. In FY 2023, there are approximately 18.3 million Veterans, down from 26.6 million in 2000 - a decline of 31% over the 23-year period. By FY 2050, there will be a projected 11.9 million Veterans, a decrease of 35% from 2023. This report presents basic characteristics of the Veteran population over the period FY 2023 to 2050.
  • Over the next three decades, the Veteran population is projected to decrease from 18.3 million in 2023 to 11.9 million in 2050, declining by an average of 241 thousand (or 1.6%) per fiscal year.
  • Women Veterans are projected to increase between FY 2023 and FY 2050 by an average of approximately 5 thousand or 0.2% per year. The percentage of Veterans who are women will grow from about 11% in FY 2023 to 18% in FY 2050.
  • Projections indicate that the Veteran population is becoming slightly younger with the median age decreasing from 62 years to 59 years between FY 2023 and 2050.
  • The Veteran population will become more racially and ethnically diverse over the next 30 years with the percentage of minority Veterans growing from 26% in FY 2023 to 38% in FY 2050.

A Declining Population

The Veteran population is projected to decrease from 18.3 million in FY 2023 to 11.9 million in FY 2050 with an average decline of 1.6% per fiscal year. In 2023, about 89% of Veterans are men and 11% are women. By 2050, the percentage of women Veterans is projected to increase to 18%. The number of women Veterans is also projected to increase slightly from 2.1 million in 2023 to 2.2 million in 2050. In contrast, the number of Veteran men is projected to decline from 16.2 million to 9.7 million between FY 2023 and 2050.

The Veteran Population is Becoming Younger

The median age of Veterans is projected to decrease by approximately 3 years from 62 years in FY 2023 to 59 years in 2050, indicating that the Veteran population is becoming younger overall. However, women Veterans are projected to age over the same period, with the median age increasing from 52 to 59 years. The percentage of all women Veterans that are younger than 65 years decreases dramatically by 18 percentage points over the next three decades from 78% to 60%. In comparison, the percentage of Veteran men who are less than 65 years of age increases from 51% in FY 2023 to 59% in 2050, a difference of about 8 percentage points.
Although the median age of the Veteran population is projected to decrease over the next few decades, there is a significant proportion of the population that is older than 85 years. As Veterans age, they face changing health risks and financial challenges that the VA addresses with an array of benefits and services. In FY 2023, about 7% of the Veteran population (1.3 million) are ages 85 and older. This population shows variable growth over the years, peaking in 2034 at 1.7 million or 12%, and declining to about 1.2 million or 10% in 2050. The number of women Veterans ages 85 and older grows four times larger during the period from FY 2023 to 2050, increasing from 45 thousand (2%) to 198 thousand (9%).
Young Veterans may face challenges transitioning from Servicemember back to civilian life. Roughly 4.0 million Veterans (22%) are under the age of 45 in 2023. Compared to FY 2023, the number of Veterans less than 45 years of age in FY 2050 is smaller, 3.2 million, but represents a larger proportion of the Veteran population at 27%.

Growing Racial and Ethnic Diversity

The Veteran population is projected to become more racially and ethnically diverse over the projection period. The non-Hispanic White Veteran population is projected to decrease approximately 45% from 13.5 million in 2023 to 7.4 million in 2050. In FY 2023, about one in four Veterans are a race/ethnicity other than non-Hispanic White. Over the projection period, this group will grow to more than one-third (38%) of the Veteran population in FY 2050. The share of Veterans who are Black, multiracial, or Hispanic are projected to increase from 13% to 15%, 3% to 7%, and 9% to 15%, respectively, from FY 2023 to 2050.

Gulf War Veterans are Largest Cohort

Overall, 78% of Veterans living in FY 2023 served during wartime and 22% served during peacetime (1). Gulf War Veterans account for the largest share of all Veterans. About 45% of the 18.3 million Veterans in FY 2023 served during the Gulf War era. This percentage is projected to increase to 60% by FY 2050. In 2023, about 31% are Vietnam Veterans, 4% served during the Korean Conflict, and about 1% served during World War II. By 2050, the majority of Veterans will have served during the Gulf War (60%) while 38% served during peacetime.

The Share of Veterans who Served in the Army is Declining

Army Veterans make up the largest proportion of all Veterans (2). In FY 2023, of the 18.3 million Veterans, approximately 8.0 million (44%) served in the Army,  3.8 million (21%) in the Navy, 3.1 million (17%) in the Air Force, 2.1 million (11%) in the Marines, 1.0 million (6%) in the Reserve Forces (3), and 200 thousand (1%) in Non-defense (4). By 2050, the percentage of Veterans that served in the Army, Navy, or Air Force is projected to decrease (41%, 19%, and 16%, respectively) while those who served in the Marines, Reserve Forces, or Non-defense are projected to grow (15%, 8%, and 2%, respectively).

Data Source

The results in this report are based on VetPop2020, which is the latest in a series of Veteran Population Projection Models that provide VA's official estimate and projection of the Veteran population and their demographic and military service characteristics. It is a deterministic projection model that projects the number of living and deceased Veterans at the end of each fiscal year from 2020 to 2050. The latest model incorporates the best available Veteran data at the end of FY 2020. For more information on the data sources and methodology used to produce VetPop2020, please refer to VetPop2020_A_Brief_Description.pdf (
  1. Some Veterans may have served during multiple eras. Veterans who served during both wartime and peacetime are only included in wartime. Veterans who served during multiple wartime eras are included in each era in which they served.
  2. Veterans who served in multiple branches of service are included in the last branch in which they served. 
  3. Reserve Forces include only those who have had active federal military service (other than for training) as a result of their membership in the reserves or National Guard. Reserve Forces with active military service in the regular military are classified according to the branch (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) in which they served while in the regular military, notwithstanding their service in the Reserve Forces.
  4. Non-defense includes the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.