This first look at the Post-9/11 GI Bill and its outcomes for veterans is possible thanks to unprecedented interagency cooperation, combining and analyzing, for the first time ever, previously siloed federal data. There has never before been any definitive assessment of the outcomes associated with this critical federal investment across military branches.

To address this gap in America’s understanding of Post-9/11 GI Bill (PGIB) outcomes, the U.S. Census Bureau agreed to host, as one of its first evidence building pilot projects, an interagency data-sharing effort to combine previously siloed data from multiple agencies to enable the first-ever look at combined federal administrative data regarding veterans’ postsecondary outcomes across all branches of the U.S. Military. This project represents an historic interagency effort to examine the PGIB program and how America’s most recent generation of military servicemembers is faring as they return to civilian life. Support from Arnold Ventures enabled a team of external researchers from the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization, to join the Census Bureau as Special-Sworn-Status employees for the purposes of this project. This support also enabled the critical purchase of student records from the National Student Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse), a nonprofit organization that provides data on enrollment and degree completion for students nationwide. The nonprofit organization Veterans Education Success helped to conceptualize the project, secure funding, and provide assistance.

This work would not have been possible without the cooperation of multiple agencies. This project combines individual-level data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) at VA, Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) at the U.S. Department of Defense, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and U.S. Census Bureau, as well as postsecondary-institution-level data from the U.S. Department of Education. Over seven years, representatives of these agencies worked to establish the data-sharing processes and agreements needed to merge these disparate data. The benefits of combining these data are numerous, allowing the project, for example, to examine veterans’ earnings (using IRS data) by PGIB use and degrees completed (using VA, VBA, Clearinghouse data), while simultaneously also accounting for veterans’ military occupations, service in hostile war zones, and academic preparedness at enlistment (using DMDC data).

A research team from AIR, Census Bureau, and VA’s National Center for Veterans Analysis & Statistics is using these newly linked data to produce multiple reports providing critical insights about PGIB. This report provides a first look at the data by answering the following questions: Who uses PGIB? What are PGIB users’ postsecondary outcomes? What are PGIB-Eligible Veterans’ labor market outcomes? This report focuses on the PGIB outcomes of veterans who were enlisted (rather than commissioned officers). Enlisted personnel represent the vast majority of military servicemembers. They also predominantly enter the military without a postsecondary degree and are thus most likely to benefit from PGIB.

Each chapter in this report answers all three research questions, noted above, but focuses on a specific population. Chapter 1 provides results for PGIB-Eligible Enlisted Veterans overall. Subsequent chapters highlight variation in these veterans’ outcomes by academic preparedness, as measured by the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score (chapter 2), sex (chapter 3), race and ethnicity (chapter 4), family responsibilities (chapter 5), disability rating (chapter 6), and rurality (chapter 7). 

Read the full report below.