When the 113th Congress convenes in January, military veterans will comprise only 19 percent of House and Senate membership.  This continues the downward trend of fewer veterans serving in Congress.

Veterans accounted for 22 percent of the 112th Congress (2011-12), 31 percent of the 107th Congress (2001-02), 40 percent of the 102nd Congress (1991-92), and 77 percent of the 95th Congress (1977-78).

In the 113th Congress, it is reported that 85 of the 435 House members are veterans (down from 91) and 19 of the 100 Senators are veterans (down from 25).  In the 95th Congress (1977-78) 347 members of the House (80 percent) were veterans.  In the 97th Congress (1981-82), 73 Senators (73 percent) were veterans.

Sixteen new members and senators served in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).  Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq, and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who served in Iraq, (both elected to the House) are the first female veterans of the Iraq war to serve in Congress.

The move from a draft to an all-volunteer military, the drop in total military end strength after the end of the cold war, a smaller percentage of the total population serving in the military, and the difficulty in raising money to mount a successful campaign are often cited as reasons for the decline in the number of veterans serving in Congress.  However, there is reason to believe more veterans may serve in future Congresses as increasing numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seek public office.

The end of the 112th Congress will see the departure of some long-serving Senators who were members of the armed forces.  Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), who served six terms, was defeated in a primary race.  Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)—five terms, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)—three terms, and Daniel Akaka (D-HI)—World War II veteran who served three terms, did not seek reelection. 

Only two World War II veteran Senators will be in the 113th Congress:  Medal of Honor recipient Sen. Dan Inouye (D-HI), whose term ends in 2017, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), whose term ends in 2015.