Methods: Data were drawn from the Wounded Warrior Project’s 2018 Annual Warrior Survey (n=31,267). Two binary dependent variables, poverty and deep poverty, were generated by examining total income from veteran and spousal employment and non-work sources like Veterans’ Administration benefits; computing total income by household size; and comparing household income to the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds. Consistent with Census Bureau guidelines, we calculated deep poverty by household size as 50% of the poverty threshold. We then fit two logistic regression models to examine associations between demographic characteristics, income sources, VA disability rating, mental health screens, poverty (model 1) and deep poverty (model 2) outcomes. Finally, we estimated marginal effects for the interaction of employment status and benefits on outcomes.
Results: About 52% of respondents reported full or part-time employment, and 16.53% met criteria for household poverty. Of those in poverty, 75.14% met criteria for deep poverty, in contrast to about 45% in the general population. Model 1 results showed significant main effects for age (OR = 0.99, 95% CI: 0.98, 0.99), benefits (OR = 0.13, 95% CI: 0.10, 0.17) and not working (OR = 0.85, 95% CI: 0.74, 0.97), on poverty. Model 2 results indicated that for those in poverty, age (OR = 1.01, 95% CI: 1.00, 1.01) was positively associated with deep poverty while receiving benefits (OR = 0.10 95% CI: 0.08, 0.11) was negatively associated. For model 1, there were significant marginal effects for the interaction of benefits and employment status on poverty. Marginal effects plots showed that employment was associated with increased probability of poverty when respondents were not receiving benefits (p= 0.44-0.42); the probability of poverty was significantly lower for all employment categories when respondents were receiving benefits (p=0.07-0.09)
Conclusions: While many wounded veterans work despite their injuries, study findings showed that receiving benefits, not full or part-time employment, was protective against poverty and deep poverty. Older veterans were slightly less likely to be in poverty, but those older veterans who were in poverty were more likely to be in deep poverty. Mental health and demographic variables were not related to poverty outcomes in this study. While substantial research is needed to facilitate a granular understanding of wounded veterans’ poverty risk, study results suggest that employment may be insufficient protection against poverty for wounded veterans - cash benefits are a critical bulwark for this population.