COMMENTARY | It's a cost that probably wasn't figured when the wars began. And it's a cost America must now pay, regardless of how staggering. According to the Associated Press, 45 percent of the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking disability compensation from service-related physical and mental injuries.
There are many factors to the increase in disability claims, and the increase in ailments per claim. Some are a weak economy and a difficulty for recently returned troops in finding jobs as well as increased awareness, advocacy and outreach for soldiers suffering from ailments such as traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. Other factors include new types of claimable ailments and the ability through body armor and battlefield care to keep more soldiers alive than ever before.
The average processing wait for a veteran's disability claim is now eight months. Nearly half a million veterans have claims that are still not processed though they were filed more than 125 days ago. The cost of the health care and disability claims of veterans from recent wars? $600 billion to $900 billion.
The Veterans Administration needs to do whatever it can to process these claims more quickly than it is. The government needs to do more to ensure that the needs of veterans returning from war are being met. It needs to update its record-keeping. Open more offices. Get these claims processed. Take care of the men and women who stepped forward in willingness to serve this country.
Yes, it's a lot of money. A cost that wasn't weighed when the wars begun. Hopefully such costs will be considered before we enter any more wars. As for this one, we must pay the cost. We owe it to the veterans.