Lewis Diuguid

Veterans’ ranks in Congress shows decline

A U.S. solider stands guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan. As that war winds to a conclusion this year, it’s notable that fewer members of Congress today are veterans.
A U.S. solider stands guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan. As that war winds to a conclusion this year, it’s notable that fewer members of Congress today are veterans. The Associated Press

A telling graphic being shared in the Internet shows the percentage of veterans in the U.S. House and Senate from 1945 to 2013.

In 1945, 41 percent of U.S. senators were veterans, and 44 percent of House members had served in the military, according to a Congressional Research Service graphic. That was right after World War II, and some lawmakers like President Harry Truman had served in World War I.

The nation’s many wars afterward and the continuing draft caused the percentage of veterans in Congress to steadily increase to a high in 1971 of nearly 80 percent in the Senate and close to 75 percent in the House. But since then the numbers have continued to decline.

Blame it on the end of the draft and the all-volunteer military. By 2013 18 percent of members of the Senate were veterans and 20 percent of members of the House had served in the military.

Some point to the decline affecting lawmakers’ eagerness to use the military as a problem-solving tool in global conflicts. They also say it may have contributed to the years of festering health care problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Let’s hope that neither is the case, and that lawmakers will do their best to ensure that veterans get the treatment they deserve, and the military is used only sparingly.

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