OGDEN — With a new census coming during the next calendar year, an Ogden man says he’s redoubling his effort to prompt the bureau responsible for it to get a more robust counting of veterans.
Terry Schow, a Vietnam veteran and former head of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, wants the 2020 census to include a question that asks about veterans status.
“It’s really just one question,” Schow said. “Are you a veteran?”
According to census.gov, veteran status stopped being collected on the decennial census questionnaire in 2010. The U.S. Census Bureau collects demographic, social, and economic data on military veterans using three national surveys: the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
But, as Schow laments, those surveys poll a much smaller percentage of the U.S. population than the decennial version. The ACS, which is the largest survey other than the decennial census, is sent to approximately 3.5 million people per year — about 10 percent of the U.S. population.
And Schow says current, official Utah veteran counts from various federal organizations are likely inaccurate.
The most current numbers from the Census Bureau show Utah’s veterans population to be around 144,000. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says the state has around 152,000 veterans.
But an independent Utah database, which uses the Utah Department of Information Technology and and analyzes information from the Department of Workforce Services and the Utah Drivers License Division, shows the state has approximately 180,000 veterans, Schow said.
Schow says the discrepancy is not superficial. The U.S. VA uses census data to determine spending on veteran housing, hospitals and assistance programs.
“The VA, using census numbers, say (Utah has) exceeded our number of nursing home beds,” Schow said. “So, we’ve exceeded the number they will pay for. This is where not having that hard, accurate count can become a real problem.”
Earlier this month, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sent a letter to Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin, asking the bureau to include veterans status on the 2020 census.
In the letter, Bishop says the bureau’s current veterans counting method “could very well be missing a significant number of individuals who have served.”
“I believe this small change will have a big impact on our ability to take care of our nation’s heroes and the proper allocation of resources for veterans cemeteries and homes,” Bishop said.
Before he left office, former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch also sent the bureau a letter, at Schow’s behest, asking for veterans status to be included on the questionnaire.
“There’s a lot of things going on right now and people are passionate about a lot of different things,” Schow said. “But for me, this is the cause of the hour.”