You are here

SNAP Helps Roughly 1.7 Million Struggling Veterans, Including Thousands in Every State

November 11, 2014

Roughly 1.7 million veterans live in households that participated in SNAP (formerly food stamps) at some point during the past 12 months, CBPP analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey finds.  In every state, thousands of struggling veterans use SNAP to help put food on the table; in two states, more than 100,000 veterans do:  Florida (132,100) and Texas (119,200).  In ten states, at least 10 percent of veterans lived in households that received SNAP in the last year.  (See Table 1 for state-by-state data.)

The 1.7 million figure, a three-year average for 2011 through 2013, represents the number of veterans in households that received SNAP at any point during the previous year.  About 980,000 veterans lived in households that participated in SNAP in an average month in 2013, data from a different Census survey (the Current Population Survey) show.  (For additional information on the difference between these two methods, see “Notes on Methods” below.) 

For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families. Nationwide, SNAP is a powerful anti-hunger and anti-poverty tool:  it kept 4.8 million people above the poverty line in 2013, including 2.1 million children.  

Many veterans returning from service face challenges in finding work and making ends meet.  While the overall unemployment rate for veterans is below the national average, the unemployment rate for recent veterans (serving between September 2001 and the present) remains high, at 9 percent in 2013.[1] 

In addition, more than one-quarter of recent veterans reported service-connected disabilities in 2013,[2] which can make it harder to provide for their families:  households with a veteran who has a disability that prevents him or her from working are about twice as likely to lack access to adequate food as households that do not include someone with a disability.[3]  About 15 percent of households that receive help through the charitable food assistance network (which includes food banks, pantries, and shelters) include a veteran, a recent study found.[4]  For veterans struggling to overcome obstacles to feed their families, SNAP makes a crucial difference.

Table 1
Veterans in Households Receiving SNAP Benefits in the Last Year,
2011-2013 Average
State/Territory Estimated number of veterans in households receiving SNAP Estimated share of veterans in households receiving SNAP
Alabama 33,000 8%
Alaska 4,900 6%
Arizona 43,700 8%
Arkansas 19,300 8%
California 98,200 5%
Colorado 23,500 5%
Connecticut 14,200 6%
Delaware 6,700 8%
District of Columbia 4,400 13%
Florida 132,100 8%
Georgia 66,500 9%
Hawaii 7,400 5%
Idaho 11,000 9%
Illinois 58,200 8%
Indiana 34,200 8%
Iowa 17,600 8%
Kansas 12,500 5%
Kentucky 30,800 10%
Louisiana 30,000 10%
Maine 14,100 11%
Maryland 28,500 6%
Massachusetts 25,700 7%
Michigan 73,100 11%
Minnesota 16,800 5%
Mississippi 20,100 10%
Missouri 44,900 9%
Montana 7,800 8%
Nebraska 7,000 5%
Nevada 15,800 7%
New Hampshire 5,600 5%
New Jersey 19,500 5%
New Mexico 14,900 8%
New York 73,700 8%
North Carolina 61,400 8%
North Dakota 2,400 4%
Ohio 80,200 10%
Oklahoma 26,300 8%
Oregon 43,200 14%
Pennsylvania 64,600 7%
Rhode Island 4,900 7%
South Carolina 34,200 8%
South Dakota 4,700 7%
Tennessee 54,100 11%
Texas 119,200 7%
Utah 10,900 8%
Vermont 4,100 8%
Virginia 41,000 5%
Washington 59,500 10%
West Virginia 13,700 9%
Wisconsin 30,600 8%
Wyoming 2,200 4%
Notes: Estimates shown are for veterans living in households that received any SNAP income during the past 12 months. Monthly estimates of SNAP participation would be lower. Estimates use three-year averages due to small sample sizes in some states in one-year data; these three-year estimates are rounded to the nearest hundred.
Source: CBPP Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2011 to 2013

Notes on Methods

CBPP analyzed the American Community Survey (ACS) for this state-level analysis.  The figures presented here represent our best estimate of the number of veterans who live in households that receive SNAP at some point during the year.

The analysis combines data for three years (2011 through 2013) to improve the reliability of the state estimates.  The figures, which total 1.7 million veterans nationwide for the three-year average (the 2013 figure was 1.6 million), refer to veterans who live in households where anyone received SNAP benefits at any time in the past 12 months.We also estimate, based on Census’ Current Population Survey (CPS), that 980,000 veterans lived in SNAP households in an average month in 2013. 

The two figures differ for three reasons.  First, the number of veterans in SNAP households at any point in the year is necessarily larger than a monthly average.  Second, the figures come from different surveys, and the CPS tends to undercount SNAP recipients more than the ACS does.  Third, they cover different periods — 2011 through 2013 for the ACS estimate versus 2013 alone for the CPS estimate.  Both surveys likely badly undercount homeless veterans, though the ACS probably misses fewer.

End notes:

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation of Veterans: 2013,”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Alisha Coleman-Jensen and Mark Nord, “Food Insecurity Among Households With Working-Age Adults With Disabilities,” Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, ERR-144, January 2013.  About one-third (33.5 percent) of households with a working-age member who was out of the labor force due to disability were food insecure.  While the food insecurity rate was slightly lower (30.5 percent) for households with a veteran who was out of the work force due to disability, this rate is still much higher than households with no working-age adults with disabilities (12 percent).

[4] Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2014,”