Swift County veteran numbers continuing to decline

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As World War II veterans pass away, the numbers of veterans enrolled with Swift County’s Veterans Service Office are dwindling.

The total number of veterans living in the county was estimated at 654 in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, down 395 from 1,049 in 2007.

Based on local statistics, 305 veterans have died in the past 11 years. However, just between 2015 and 2017, there were 101 deaths.

The number of deaths climbed between 2015 and 2017 as a lot of World War II veterans died, Swift County Veterans Service Office Dave Barrett told the board of commissioners at their Oct. 2 meeting. There were also some Korean War veterans who died, he added.

The large drop off in the number of veterans in Swift County is also attributed to the way the VA actuaries recalculated veteran numbers starting in 2016. In 2015, there were an estimated 925 veterans in the county. However, in 2016 the number fell by 242 though there were only 30 deaths recorded the previous year.

“For 2017, they are telling us that Swift County has 654 vets, that would be about 7 percent of our population,” Barrett said. “I think that is a pretty reasonable number. I would think that is within a percent of what we actually have.”  

Part of the problem in getting accurate numbers is that the tally requires self-reporting by veterans. “If a veteran doesn’t report himself, or herself, as a veteran, they don’t show up on this list,” Barrett said.

Is there an increase in the number of women veterans who are being seen in the program? Commissioner Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, asked. World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War all saw predominantly males in the military services, he said. Now with the Middle East conflicts and Afghanistan, is the VA seeing more women coming in?

There were only two or three female veterans from the World War II period, Barrett replied. There are more women being seen today, but he said he didn’t have any specific numbers for the meeting.

While the older veterans die, service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion, are seeing declining numbers. Part of that problem is a lack of involvement from more recent veterans....


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