Do you know how many American military members served in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last ten years? Do you know how many were killed during those wars? Just as importantly, do you know how many were injured and are now disabled veterans?
By the numbers
It is interesting to find out that the total number of service members who were in Iraq or Afghanistan was over 2.5 million Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and National Guardsmen. Of those, nearly 6,600 were killed and over 770,000 have filed disability claims. That means that roughly 45 percent of all veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan believe they are disabled.
During the Gulf War in the 1990s, 21 percent of veterans who served filed disability claims, the number for Vietnam War veterans falls even lower. The number of disabled veterans claims from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are approaching the same number as claims from Vietnam, even though 58,000 service members died in the earlier war.
Why are disabled veterans claims so high?
Although there are multiple theories about the rise of disability claims from military service, one of the major issues is that service members are encouraged to file for disability when they leave the service. According to the L.A. Times the expansion of the definition of disability, in addition to the support of counselors, has led to service members filing claims for many problems that would not have been considered a disability even two decades ago.
Less restrictive and more liberal laws have led to the explosion of disability claims by veterans. During the Revolutionary War, disability payments came only when a service man lost a limb, but now, problems stemming from diabetes and sleep apnea, just to list two examples, are basis for disabled veterans claims.
Our country is currently locked in a crippling recession. Although the government touts increasing job numbers and decreasing unemployment, the number of people who have left the job market is the highest it has been since 1977. Instead of recovering, the economy is shrinking. Unsustainable deficits are cutting into our ability to pay our nation’s current bills, let alone the ones that are coming up.
But veterans, specifically disabled veterans, shouldn’t be left holding that particular bag. If you were disabled while serving your country, you deserve to have that country help you in the future. Disability payments are just one of the ways that we help.
Enter the VA
Unfortunately, the cost of these payments continues to rise. The calls to clean up and restructure the Veteran’s Administration could have a detrimental effect on disabled veterans. Any time our government has decided to cut costs, bureaucrats have managed to fix it so the people who need help are the first ones to suffer, while administrators and staff maintain their perks.
There is no doubt that money is being wasted. Not just in the Veteran’s Administration but also through disabled veterans claims that are not really disabilities. Sorting out those who are in actual need versus those who took advantage of the system will be, not only difficult, but a thankless task for those who do it.
Unfortunately, it needs to be done. And soon.
The National Veterans Foundation is a non-profit organization. Please donate what you can to help NVF continue its valuable work helping veterans.
ABC News, U.S. Veterans: By the Numbers [http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136]
Boston Globe, Almost half of new veterans seek disability claims [https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/05/27/almost-half-new-veterans-seek-disability-benefits/sYQAAY00ddXBRoqfsKMheJ/story.html]
L.A. Times, With U.S. encouragement, VA disability claims rise sharply [http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-veterans-disability-20140713-story.html]
Stripes, VA: Major restructuring will streamline services, set standard regional boundaries [http://www.stripes.com/va-major-restructuring-will-streamline-services-set-standard-regional-boundaries-1.325880]
Zero Hedge, 1000s Of Veterans Busted For Massive Benefits Fraud [http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-11-01/hard-understand-1000s-veterans-busted-massive-benefits-fraud]