Sunday, March 23, 2008

According to many sources, both inside and outside the government, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has a predicted life-time cost of between 350 and 700 billion in terms of providing disability compensation and direct medical costs for the Gulf War veterans. The terms of its current costs, Linda Bilmes, Harvard University..s Kennedy School of Government, paints a bleak picture.

"The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is already overwhelmed by the volume of returning veterans and the seriousness of their health care needs," Bilmes states. "It will not be able to provide a high quality of care in a timely fashion to the wave of returning veterans."

It is estimated that over 1.4 million soldiers have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and 690,000 soldiers have left active duty. Some 229,000 of that number have sought VA medical care since 2002 and 37 percent have received a preliminary rating for mental health problems.

The number of days it takes the VHA to grant or deny a disability claim is an important measurement because of its links to the number homeless veterans. Most of these veterans are unemployed without family ties. From an initial 125 target days to rule on a disability claim, the Veterans Administration in the year 2007 reported that it took 183 days to evaluate a claim.

Although the number of overall veterans has declined since the year 2000, the number of Gulf War veterans has been growing. Gulf War veterans include the 1991 war with Iraq and grew from 3,065,000 in 2000 to 4,647,000 in 2006, which is a 34 percent increase. The 2016 forecast projects that there will be 5,698,000 Gulf veterans.

Harvard..s Bilmes has already predicted that the backlog in claims will reach 750,000 by 2010 which is nearly double the 400,000 number of pending claims.

The Vietnam War veteran also has a statistical place because they have the largest number of veterans—7,736,000—and an average age of 60 years old.

In addition, the current Gulf War has the highest death to wounded ratio with 7.6 wounded to killed Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) account for most of the wounded soldiers. This is reflected in the types of injuries because of the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

Scott Wallsten and Katrina Kosec calculate in their "The Economic cost of the war in Iraq" the long term care issues for GWOT veterans. Estimates commonly used by medical experts suggest a lifetime cost of care for brain injuries ranged from 600,000 to $4 million per person and about $45,000 to $57,000 for amputees plus the cost of prosthetic limbs ranging from $12,500 to 4100,000. For individuals the VA estimates an average cost of $2,610 per each GWOT veteran.