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SNAP Helps Almost 1.5 Million Low-Income Veterans, Including Thousands in Every State

November 9, 2017

In every state, thousands of low-income veterans use SNAP to help put food on the table. Almost 1.5 million veterans live in households that participate in SNAP (formerly food stamps), CBPP analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey finds.[1]  In every state, thousands of low-income veterans use SNAP to help put food on the table; two states have more than 100,000 veterans participating:  Florida (124,000) and Texas (103,000).  In eight states, at least 10 percent of veterans live in households that received SNAP in the last year.  (See Table 1 for state-by-state data.)

The 1.5 million figure, an annual average for the 2014-2016 period, represents veterans who received SNAP at any point during the previous year.  For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or have disabilities, 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 8.8 million people above the poverty line in 2014, including 4 million children.[2]  

Some veterans returning from service face challenges in finding work and making ends meet.  For example, young veterans who leave active duty may have little work experience beyond military service.  Searching for a new job can be especially difficult while they are in the military.  Young recent veterans have higher unemployment rates and lower labor force participation rates than similar civilians, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report.  The unemployment rate for male veterans ages 22-24 who were neither in school nor functionally disabled was about 2 percentage points higher than that of comparable civilians over the 2008-2015 period, on average, and their labor force participation rate was 1.1 percentage points lower.[3]  Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 25-34 was higher than that of civilians in the same age group in 2016.[4] 

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.[5]  More than a third (1.4 million) of recent veterans reported a service-connected disability in 2016.[6]  This can make it harder for them to provide for their families.  About 20 percent of households receiving help through the charitable food assistance network (which includes food banks, pantries, and shelters) include a veteran, one study found.[7]  For veterans struggling to overcome obstacles to feed their families, SNAP makes a crucial difference.

Veterans Receiving SNAP Benefits, 2014-2016 Average
State Estimated number of veterans receiving SNAP Estimated total number of veterans Estimated share of veterans receiving SNAP
Alabama 27,000 337,000 8%
Alaska 4,000 65,000 5%
Arizona 37,000 489,000 7%
Arkansas 17,000 203,000 8%
California 96,000 1,649,000 6%
Colorado 21,000 373,000 6%
Connecticut 12,000 177,000 7%
Delaware 5,000 67,000 7%
District of Columbia 3,000 27,000 12%
Florida 124,000 1,456,000 9%
Georgia 61,000 646,000 9%
Hawaii 10,000 107,000 9%
Idaho 8,000 114,000 7%
Illinois 52,000 609,000 9%
Indiana 28,000 395,000 7%
Iowa 14,000 196,000 7%
Kansas 11,000 183,000 6%
Kentucky 25,000 279,000 9%
Louisiana 23,000 257,000 9%
Maine 10,000 106,000 9%
Maryland 27,000 373,000 7%
Massachusetts 24,000 320,000 7%
Michigan 55,000 581,000 10%
Minnesota 16,000 320,000 5%
Mississippi 16,000 173,000 9%
Missouri 32,000 425,000 8%
Montana 5,000 84,000 6%
Nebraska 6,000 126,000 4%
Nevada 17,000 208,000 8%
New Hampshire 5,000 103,000 5%
New Jersey 17,000 344,000 5%
New Mexico 12,000 147,000 8%
New York 67,000 753,000 9%
North Carolina 56,000 666,000 8%
North Dakota 2,000 47,000 4%
Ohio 64,000 758,000 8%
Oklahoma 24,000 276,000 9%
Oregon 39,000 298,000 13%
Pennsylvania 63,000 800,000 8%
Rhode Island 6,000 61,000 10%
South Carolina 27,000 367,000 7%
South Dakota 5,000 61,000 8%
Tennessee 44,000 442,000 10%
Texas 103,000 1,484,000 7%
Utah 7,000 123,000 6%
Vermont 4,000 41,000 10%
Virginia 34,000 686,000 5%
Washington 53,000 548,000 10%
West Virginia 13,000 134,000 10%
Wisconsin 27,000 357,000 8%
Wyoming 2,000 46,000 4%
United States 1,459,000 18,888,000 8%

Notes: Estimates are for veterans living in households that received any SNAP income during the past 12 months. Estimates of SNAP participation in a given month 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 thousand and may not add up to totals.

Source: CBPP Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014 to 2016


Notes on Methods

CBPP analyzed the 2014-2016 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS) for this state-level analysis.  Veterans were identified as individuals who indicated that they had ever served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.  The figures presented here represent our best estimate of the number of veterans living in households that receive SNAP at some point during the year.

The analysis combines data for three years (2014 through 2016) to improve the reliability of the state estimates.  The figures, which total 1.5 million veterans nationwide for the three-year average, refer to veterans living in households where anyone received SNAP benefits at any time in the past 12 months.  The ACS surveys housing unit addresses and residents of group quarters facilities, including shelters. The survey omits any homeless individuals who are not staying at an address (e.g., with friends or family) or at a shelter at the time of survey.  Given the transient nature of this population, the ACS likely undercounts the homeless, including homeless veterans.

End Notes

[1] We defined veterans as those individuals who indicated they have ever served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

[2] CBPP analysis of Census Bureau data from the March Current Population Survey; corrections for underreported benefits from Department of Health and Human Services/Urban Institute TRIM model.  These numbers are slightly different from previously published numbers because the Census revised these files in September 2017.

[3] Congressional Budget Office, “Labor Force Experiences of Recent Veterans,” May 2017,  Recent veterans refer to veterans who left active-duty service since September 2001.

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation of Veterans: 2016,” March 22, 2017,

[5] 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.  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).


[7] Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2014,” August 2014,