Study: Health Care for Iraq Veterans Could Exceed $650 Billion
Health care for veterans returning from the Iraq war could cost the U.S. as much as $650 billion, eventually exceeding the cost of combat operations, according to a study by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Boston Globe reports.
The study, titled "Shock and Awe Hits Home," was led by Evan Kanter, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Washington and a staff physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Researchers estimated future costs by extrapolating data on the present costs for treating military personnel with severe health problems such as blast injuries from improvised explosive devices; the high rate of traumatic brain injuries; and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects about one-third of troops who have served in Iraq, according to VA estimates. The group's analysis of the data assumed that at the current rate of deployment, up to two million U.S. military personnel will serve in Iraq through the end of the combat operations. Researchers also examined veterans' disability payment data, the Globe reports.
Presently, a veteran who is 100% disabled and does not have a spouse or dependents receives a monthly federal payment of about $2,400, which over 50 years would exceed $1.4 million. The study did not take into account data for the civilian contractors who serve in Iraq, including more than 1,000 personnel who already have filed for disability compensation with the U.S. Department of Labor.
The results of the study come as new data released on Thursday by the Department of Defense show that thousands of National Guard and Reserve personnel have lost their jobs, health insurance, pensions and other benefits after returning from the war, despite government regulations that prevent them from being penalized (Bender, Boston Globe, 11/9).
"Although many Americans believe that the nation's veterans have ready access to health care," recent research on the rate of uninsured veterans published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that "that is far from the case," the New York Times writes in an editorial. "There is little doubt that lack of coverage" is harmful to the health of these veterans, many of whom "have delayed or forgone care because of costs," the editorial continues.
"One solution would be to make all veterans eligible for care in appreciation of their service to the nation," the Times states, adding, " An even better solution would be some form of universal health coverage for all Americans." The editorial concludes, "Then even veterans who live far from a VA facility, and a host of dependents who are not now eligible, could get the care they need" (New York Times, 11/9).