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Post-9/11 Veterans Indicate Contributions of Women in the Military Not Understood

Post-9/11 Veterans Indicate Contributions of Women in the Military Not Understood IAVA’s 7th Annual Member Survey reveals key findings on women veterans, mental health care, employment and more

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2016) – According to a new comprehensive survey completed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), 85 percent of respondents feel the general public does not understand the contributions of women in the military. Further, a majority of women (64 percent) feel their advancement in the military has been limited by past restrictions placed on women serving in combat. That is one of many critical findings from IAVA’s groundbreaking 7th Annual Member Survey at, released today.

“IAVA takes pride in our data-driven approach to advocacy. The survey highlights the voices of the newest generation of veterans on the most pressing issues in America. These data serve as a main foundation for all of our policy and advocacy work,” said Dr. Jacqueline Maffucci, IAVA’s Research Director. “We are honored to share this report with Congress, the Obama Administration and the 2016 presidential candidates. IAVA urges all stakeholders to utilize this survey to further inform current and future initiatives and campaign agendas in support of veterans and their families.”

IAVA’s member survey is one of the largest and most comprehensive non-­governmental surveys of post­-9/11 veterans providing insight into a number of critical issues, including suicide, health care, burn pit and toxic exposure, VA benefits, political engagement, reintegration challenges, employment and more.

The full 7th Annual Member Survey is available for download here. Additional highlights from the survey include:


  • 50% have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill for themselves or their dependents.
  • 45% of those not currently in school have pursued a degree since separating from the military.
  • 65% of those who pursued a degree have graduated.

Women in the Military

  • 64% of females and 35% of males think women’s advancement in the military has been limited by restrictions on women in combat.
  • 32% of female respondents would apply for a military occupational specialty in a combat arms unit.
  • 73% believe that physical fitness standards should be uniform for men and women.

Suicide and Mental Health

  • 58% indicated they have a service-connected mental health injury.
  • 40% have thought about taking their own life since joining the military; up from 31% in 2014.
  • 80% do not think that troops are getting the care they need for mental health injuries.
  • 54% have known an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who attempted suicide; up from 37% in 2014.

VA Health Care

  • 47% reported a good or very good overall experience with VA health care.
  • 24% think the VA is doing a good job on mental health; down from 38% in 2014.
  • 31% would refer a friend to the VA.
  • 54% were not familiar with the VA Choice Card program.

VA Disability Backlog

  • 79% reported waiting over 125 days to be notified of the VA claim decision.
  • 56% reported waiting over 125 days to be notified of the VA appeal decision.
  • 61% felt a financial impact while waiting on a claim.


  • 8% were unemployed; down from 10% in 2014.
  • 74% have experienced a period of unemployment since leaving the military.
  • 85% would consider their current employer veteran friendly.

Burn Pit Exposure

  • 74% were exposed to burn pits while deployed and 60% report symptoms as a result.
  • 60% of those exposed to burn pits have symptoms associated with this exposure.
  • 36% of those exposed to burn pits are registered in the VA’s burn pit registry.


  • 57% think the president is doing a poor job improving the lives of veterans.
  • 63% think Congress is doing a poor job improving the lives of veterans.
  • 50% think the VA Secretary is doing a poor job improving the lives of veterans.

“This in-depth survey is essential for understanding the issues that are most critical to the post-9/11 veteran community. The member survey breaks the stereotypes of veterans and explains the diverse challenges of the modern veteran,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “It is the deepest and most extensive survey done of this population. This year’s survey will prove to be the most important yet. In this election year, the candidates should take note. Veterans issues continue to move further down the priority list of our country’s leaders. Yet our survey shows 93% of respondents are registered to vote and intend to vote in the the 2016 election and veterans policy is one of the most important issues for them when considering which candidate to  support. This survey clearly lays out what veterans expect from our next commander-in-chief and all stakeholders.”

The IAVA Member Survey is the largest and deepest poll conducted of verified post-9/11 veterans in recent history. Unlike any other study in America, respondents have had their military service verified by IAVA. Data for the 7th Annual Member Survey was collected from 1,501 respondents in the first half of 2015.

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