And yet, George W. Bush and the GOP Congress continue to underfund the VA and cut veteran’s benefits whenever they can get away with it. Of course, that’s what happens to the men and women who have served our country once they are no longer useful for photo-ops.
The yearly cost of unemployment benefits for disabled military personnel has ballooned to $3 billion. Is the U.S. prepared for the oncoming wave of Iraq war vets?
Many former soldiers are finding it difficult to return to 9-to-5 America. The number of disabled vets from all wars deemed “unemployable” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs tripled from 71,000 to 220,000 between 1996 and 2005. Unemployable vets receive about $2,393 a month, with the total cost of the program now $3.1 billion a year (up from $857 million in 1996). That staggering price tag doesn’t include the bulk of recent vets from Iraq and Afghanistan who will enter the system over the next few decades.
It’s difficult to gauge how much of an impact the new generation of war vets will have on the VA’s already strained system. More than 150,000 military personnel are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the total number of troops who’ve rotated through either country at some point since September 2001 will definitely be much higher. About 18,000 military personnel have already been wounded in both conflicts. And many injuries like post traumatic stress disorder may not surface until well after their homecomings.