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Nancy  Madsen
By Nancy Madsen June 11, 2012

Bob McDonnell says Virginia is No. 1 state in veterans per capita

Gov. Bob McDonnell -- who spent 21 years in the U.S. Army and Reserves and is the son of career Army officer -- is proud to talk about the large military bases in Virginia and the current and past service of many who live here.

On Memorial Day, he addressed 2,000 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. His speech, on the cost of freedom, included the claim that Virginia "is home to more veterans per capita than any state in America."

The governor has made that statement several times and we wondered if he were correct. So we checked the state veteran counts listed on website of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which are from 2010, and compared them to state population tallies in the 2010 Census.

The VA calculated there were 22.7 million veterans in the U.S. They made up 7.3 percent of the nation’s 308.7 million people.

Virginia had about 822,300 veterans in 2010 and a census of 8,001,024 people. Veterans made up 10.28 percent of Old Dominion’s population.

But three states topped Virginia’s veteran population per capita:

*Alaska had a 10.84 percent veteran population. It had an estimated 77,000 veterans and a population of 721,523.
*Maine had a 10.43 percent veteran population. It had an estimated 138,600 veterans and a population of 1,333,074.
*Montana had a 10.31 percent veteran population. It had an estimated 102,000 veterans and a population of 989,415.

We asked McDonnell’s office for the governor’s numbers and got a tally that was similar to ours. It was based on a 2011 VA estimate of veterans and the Census’ 2011 population estimate.

Under that data, Virginia ranked third, with 10.17 percent of the population formerly in military uniform. The leader was once again Alaska, with a 10.7 percent population of veterans, followed by Maine, at 10.27 percent. Montana slipped to No. 4, at 10.11 percent.

Gubernatorial spokesman Jeff Caldwell said McDonnell meant to say Virginia is "one of" the states with the highest per capita veteran populations and made a mistake while speaking extemporaneously.

The governor made the same mistake on May 29, the day after Memorial Day, during his monthly broadcast on WTOP radio in Washington. With little effort, we found two other occasions where he made the erroneous claim.

In case you’re wondering, Virginia has the seventh largest veteran population in the nation, according to the VA. Here’s a list of the top seven and their estimated 2011 veteran populations: California, 1,918,073; Texas, 1,683,237; Florida, 1,617,248; Pennsylvania, 933,404; New York, 913,489; Ohio, 867,240; Virginia, 823,348.

Our ruling

McDonnell’s office acknowledges the governor erred on Memorial Day when he said Virginia has the most veterans per capita of any state. Virginia was No. 4 in 2010 and moved up to No. 3 in 2011.

We rate the governor’s claim False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Military sacrifice honored," May 29, 2012

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veteran population as of Sept. 30, 2010, accessed June 6, 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Data, accessed June 6, 2012.

Email from Jeff Caldwell, including 2011 table, June 1, 2012.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, The States spreadsheet, accessed June 6, 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 population estimates, accessed June 6, 2012.

WTOP radio, "Ask the Governor," May 29, 2012.

WCVE-FM, "McDonnell signs veterans rights bills," April 30, 2010.

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