Veterans Disability Costs exceed Stiglitz-Bilmes estimates

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The latest disability benefits costs are even higher than we predicted.   And this will grow higher, because more than 700,000 new veterans have already claimed, with an average of 8 conditions per claim.

New CBO study confirms high cost of treating new veterans with PTSD and TBI

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A new study from CBO confirms what we wrote in 2008 and subsequently — that the volume of veterans seeking medical care from the VA, and the cost of treating them, is driving enormous budget increases at VA, in part due to the expense of treating troops with PTSD, and/or TBI.

Highlights of the CBO Study

Through September 2011, about 740,000 veterans from overseas contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had been treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). That number is slightly more than half of all recent veterans eligible for care by VHA.

Average Costs for All of VHA's Health Care Provided to OCO Patients VHA spent about $2 billion in fiscal year 2010 to provide medical care to all recent combat veterans.

One in Four Recent Combat Veterans Treated at VHA from 2004 to 2009 Had a Diagnosis of PTSD; 7 Percent Had a Diagnosis of TBI

Using data for recent veterans treated by VHA from 2004 to 2009, CBO found that:

  • 21 percent were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but not traumatic brain injury (TBI),
  • 2 percent were diagnosed with TBI but not PTSD,
  • An additional 5 percent had both PTSD and TBI, and
  • The remaining 72 percent had neither diagnosis.

Treating Recent Combat Veterans Diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, or Both Was Much More Expensive Than Treating Other Recent Veterans

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What have we learned from Iraq?
Boston Globe

THIS MONTH, after nearly nine years, the American war in Iraq is finally drawing to a close. At its peak, 170,000 Americans were stationed in more than 500 military bases across the country. In total, more than 2 million US troops have served in Iraq; now we are down to the last 18,000, with hundreds leaving every day.

With the end of the war looming, we can say for certain that the total cost will be at least $4 trillion. This figure could climb much higher, depending on the number of veterans who require long-term care, the cost of replacing equipment, and the full social and economic impact of the war. The human toll has been equally high: 4,486 Americans have been killed in Iraq, 32,000 wounded in action, and tens of thousands seriously injured. More than one-third of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability.

Despite a concerted effort to train Iraqi forces and help reconstruct the country, Iraq remains insecure and politically unstable, with constant threats from Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran, as well as Sunni militants such as Al Qaeda. Millions of Iraqis are still displaced from their homes, either living in exile outside the country or unable to return to their old neighborhoods after the sectarian violence of 2005 to 2007. Meanwhile, the balance of power in the region, which President Bush hoped to tip in favor of the West, is precarious and depends on many factors outside US control. Amid this gloomy picture it is timely to ask what lessons the war should hold for America.

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NY Times looks at rising cost of veterans care

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The Watson Institute at Brown University, funded by the Eisenhower Institute, has published a wide-ranging new study of Iraq and Afghanistan war costs that was compiled by some 20 academic contributors and led by Professors Catherine Lutz (Brown) and Neta Crawford (Boston University).  Contributors include Andrew Bacevich (BU) , Winslow Wheeler (Center on Defense Information), Anita Dancs (National Priorities Project), Ryan Edwards (Queens College, NYU) and many others.  Linda Bilmes wrote the section of the report that estimates the costs attributable to veterans medical care and disability benefits.

The study focused particularly on war costs that have occurred (or been incurred but not yet paid) during the past decade since September 11, 2011.  It features important new work on the casualties and costs to defense contractors, and the social impact on military families.   The section by Winslow Wheeler analyzes the increases in the defense base budget over the past decade.  Portions of the report focus on costs to Iraq and to the region.   The website includes a range of charts and tables.    The study covers overlapping, but somewhat different ground, from the Stiglitz-Bilmes study.


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