Document Type

Working Paper




Veteran Health, Treatment Effects, Bounds, Instrumental Variables




Working Papers Series


We thank Meta Brown, Carmen Carrion-Flores, Salvador Navarro, Orgul Ozturc, Solomon Polachek, David Slichter, Rick Tannery, and conference and seminar participants at Louisiana State University, Slippery Rock University, the 2018 and 2019 Midwest Economics Association meetings, the 2018 Southern Economic Association conference, the 2019 ASSA meetings, the 2019 Western Economics Association conference, the 2019 Midwest Econometrics Group meetings, the Global Labor Organization virtual seminar, the XV Symposium of Human Capital and Growth at UANL, and the labor and the education and social policy groups at Syracuse University for useful and constructive comments. We also thank Carlos Dobkin for his assistance in the application for the restricted-use data. We particularly thank Adrienne Jones and the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Federal Statistics Research Data Center at Cornell for all the gracious support given to the access to the restricted data used in this paper. The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Research Data Center, the National Center for Health Statistics, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flores and Flores-Lagunes gratefully acknowledge support, respectively, from the Orfalea College of Business at California Polytechnic State University and from the Appleby-Mosher fund at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.


Economic Policy | Economics | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


We analyze the short- and long-term effects of the U.S. Vietnam-era military service on veterans’ health outcomes using a restricted version of the National Health Interview Survey 1974-2013 and employing the draft lotteries as an instrumental variable (IV). We start by assessing whether the draft lotteries, which have been used as an IV in prior literature, satisfy the exclusion restriction by placing bounds on its net or direct effect on the health outcomes of draft avoiders. Since we do not find evidence against the validity of the IV, we assume its validity in conducting inference on the health effects of military service for individuals who comply with the draft-lotteries assignment (the “compliers”), as well as for those who volunteer for enlistment (the “always-takers”). The causal analysis for volunteers, who represent over 75% of veterans, is novel in this literature that typically focuses on the compliers. Since the effect for volunteers is not point-identified, we employ bounds that rely on a mild mean weak monotonicity assumption. We examine a large array of health outcomes and behaviors, including mortality, up to 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War. We do not find consistent evidence of detrimental health effects on compliers, in line with prior literature. For volunteers, however, we document that their estimated bounds show statistically significant detrimental health effects that appear 20 years after the end of the conflict. As a group, veterans experience similar statistically significant detrimental health effects from military service. These findings have implications for policies regarding compensation and health care of veterans after service.



Additional Information

Working paper no. 234


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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