Monday, May 12, 2008

Number of disabled veterans up by 25% since 2001

Wounded soldiers at the Center For The Intrepid
at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

The Associated Press reported May 11 that the increasing numbers of U.S. troops means an ever-larger pool of disabled veterans, which is expected to cost the government billions in compensation, and the number of disabled veterans has risen by 25 percent since 2001 — to 2.9 million.

Even as the total population of America's vets declines with the deaths of soldiers from World War II and Korea, "the government expects to be spending $59 billion a year to compensate injured warriors in 25 years, up from today's $29 billion," according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press. The Veterans Affairs Department admits the bill could be much higher.

The rising costs are due to more devastating war wounds, more disabilities and more savvy vets who quickly apply for their benefits.

And advanced medical care is leading to soldiers living through devastating injuries that would have killed them in previous wars.

Also, as the current veterans age, their need for disability compensation and medical costs may rise.

"This is a cost of war," says Steve Smithson, a deputy director at the American Legion. "We're still producing veterans. We've been in a war in Iraq for five years now, and the war on terror since 9/11."

Today's veterans, both disabled and non-disabled, number about 24 million. That number is expected by the VA to fall under 15 million by 2033, but costs are projected to rise.