Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Costs of Wars Only Grow

Iraq war winds down, but costs soar

August 15, 2010 - President Obama announced recently with much fanfare that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will be down to 50,000 by the end of August. All troops will withdraw by December next year. Clearly it is good news that the United States is finally extricating itself from what has been a long, bloody and unnecessary conflict. But drawing down the number of troops doesn't mean the end of spending money. Many of the biggest costs are still to be paid.

It is a sobering thought that the peak year for paying out disability claims to World War I veterans didn't occur until 1969 - more than 50 years after the armistice. The peak for paying out World War II benefits was in the 1980s, and we have not yet reached the peak cost for Vietnam veterans. Even the Gulf War of 1991, which lasted just six weeks, costs more than $4 billion a year in disability compensation.

We have already spent close to $1 trillion in Iraq - about $800 billion for direct military combat operations plus extra costs hidden in the budget for things like military medicine, recruiting, veterans' care and contractors' insurance. But there are at least four big costs ahead. {read more}

{Linda J. Bilmes is the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University. She is co-author (with Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz) of the best-seller "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict"}

Overlooked cost of the war: veterans' benefits

August 15, 2010 - Two years after an Army specialist saw half his platoon torn apart in Iraq, he hanged himself in a California backyard. In June, the Army and National Guard recorded 32 suicides, the highest number ever in one month. But his death isn't in any military report, because the specialist was a veteran when he took his life.

The nation needs to recognize that veterans aren't included in direct war expenditures either, including our nation's $700 billion defense budget, which already surpasses that of all other countries combined. While it is fiscally impossible to double this year's defense budget, we are incurring a future war debt of that size with little public debate. I refer to our solemn obligation to provide health care and other benefits to the men and women who have served in the military since 2001.

Eye-opening research by Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz puts the lifetime cost of benefits for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at $663 billion. In fact, a handful of variables could drive these costs up further. When Congress appropriates money for the war, it doesn't include the cost of providing post-military health care and disability payments to the men and women who risk their lives for us. That burden belongs to the Department of Veterans Affairs and its budget, driven by year-to-year needs. {read more}

Not so much 'overlooked', as the Country moves on and chooses to ignore and not listen to once the soldiers come home! It's just like the now long gone magnetic ribbons and other 'symbols', words, lapel flag pins......., of feel good for those that don't serve and it's easy to blame the agency set up to fulfill the countries promises, not kept, even by many Veterans in need instead of looking at those around them!

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