AIM: The aim of this study was to compare the differences in health state, functional capacity and the use of social and health services among the 80-84-year-old Finnish Second World War veterans in 1992 and 2004 and to describe the possible effects of the improvements made based on the results after 1992. METHODS: The Veteran Projects were conducted among the veterans using a postal questionnaire. In 1992, the questionnaire was sent to all veterans (n = 242,720) living in Finland, and in 2004 to 5750 veterans who had participated in the study in 1992. The comparable age groups of veterans aged 80-84 years were used. The data were analysed by descriptive statistics and binary logistic regression analysis. Analyses were conducted separately for men with and without disability and for all women. RESULTS: The proportion of men with good self-reported health, painlessness, normal memory and vision and who were able to walk 500 m without difficulties, significantly increased, as did the proportion of women with normal memory and vision. The prevalence of many diseases increased, but diseases appeared to be less disabling in 2004 than 1992. The need for hospital care decreased and the use of rehabilitation services increased, but the increased use of rehabilitation services was not indicative of the ability to walk 500 m. CONCLUSIONS: Self-rated health and functional capacity improved and the need for hospital care decreased among veterans, although the prevalence of many diseases increased during the follow-up. Rehabilitation was not associated with the ability to walk 500 m without difficulties.