Sunday, October 15, 2006

Analysis: Vast costs loom in disability claims

Nearly one in five soldiers leaving the military after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has been at least partly disabled as a result of service, according to documents of the Department of Veterans Affairs obtained by a Washington research group.

The number of veterans granted disability compensation, more than 100,000 to date, suggests that taxpayers have only begun to pay the long-term financial cost of the two conflicts. About 567,000 of the 1.5 million American troops who have served so far have been discharged.

“The trend is ominous,” said Paul Sullivan, director of programs for Veterans for America, an advocacy group, and a former V.A. analyst.

Mr. Sullivan said that if the current proportions held up over time, 400,000 returning service members could eventually apply for disability benefits when they retired.

About 2.6 million veterans were receiving disability compensation as of 2005, according to testimony to Congress by the V.A. The largest group of recipients is from the Vietnam era. Of the 1.1 million who served in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf war in 1991, 291,740 have been granted disability compensation.

Read the rest at the NY Times