Though the war in Iraq has ended and combat in Afghanistan is winding down, the cost of providing disability coverage to those who fought those battles has doubled since 2000, USA Today reports. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, granting adequate coverage to military veterans has ballooned in cost from $14.8 billion in 2000 to $39.4 billion in 2011. That number tracks with previous statistics that showed 45 percent of 1.6 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought disability benefits.
A large portion of that increase comes from more awareness of the benefits afforded to veterans — due to legislation since the Vietnam war — and a boost in the number of conditions covered by the VA, including PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. The result is a higher number of claims across the board for more conditions:
The average number of conditions compensated for each veteran has grown from 2.3 for the World War II generation to 3.5 for those from the Vietnam War to six for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the VA says.
About one in seven disabled veterans were rated more than 70% disabled in 2000; today, that ratio is more than one in four, data show. Average annual payouts per veteran have risen to $11,737 in 2011 — an increase of nearly 40% after adjusting for inflation.
USA Today charts the numbers:
The rise in disability costs in a time of potential budget cuts add to the difficulties veterans continue to face in transitioning from service to private life. The rising rate and complexity of their cases has caused a backlog for those seeking benefits from the VA, with the average case requiring over two hundred days to be resolved. Meanwhile, while veteran unemployment fell to its lowest number in the Obama presidency in August, the rate for post-9/11 veterans continues to be higher than the national average, impacting the strain on the VA benefits system.