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OBJECTIVE:. Studies suggest arthritis and rheumatic diseases are common among military veterans, but prior research has not directly compared arthritis between veterans and the general population. This study compared arthritis prevalence and symptoms between veterans of the US Armed Forces and non-veterans, and between veterans who are US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare users and veteran nonusers. METHODS: Study participants were 123,395 respondents from 36 states that completed the 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System arthritis module. Analyses compared self-reports of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, chronic joint symptoms, and activity limitation according to veteran status. Analyses also compared relationships of demographic characteristics to arthritis according to veteran status. RESULTS: US veterans were more likely to report doctor-diagnosed arthritis than non-veterans (32% vs 22%; p < 0.001), and VA healthcare users were more likely to report doctor-diagnosed arthritis than veteran nonusers (43% vs 30%; p < 0.001). Differences remained in analyses controlling for demographic characteristics. Among respondents with arthritis, veterans were more likely to report chronic joint symptoms and activity limitation than non-veterans, and VA healthcare users were more likely to report chronic symptoms and activity limitation than veteran nonusers. Demographic factors predicting doctor-diagnosed arthritis were similar among the 3 groups. CONCLUSION: This study shows a significant burden of arthritis among US veterans, particularly VA healthcare users. Increased prevention of orthopedic injuries in the military may reduce the risk of arthritis in veterans. Within the VA healthcare system, self-management interventions may help to improve outcomes among the many patients with arthritis.