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The high cost of war; Benefits paid out to survivors taking toll

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The U.S. government will be paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the next 100 years. Payouts made to service members and their families in the years following combat should remind the American public about the high cost of war, military officials say.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Federal payment records have shown that the U.S. government is still making monthly payments to relatives of Civil War veterans, a full 148 years after the conflict ended.

At the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, more than $40 billion a year is being spent to compensate veterans and survivors from the Spanish-American War from 1898, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns and the Afghanistan conflict.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. says that these costs are rising rapidly and should remind the nation about war's long-lasting financial toll.

"When we decide to go to war, we have to consciously be also thinking about the cost," Murray, adding that her WW II-veteran father's disability benefits helped feed their family.

Former Republican senator and veteran Alan Simpson, who co-chaired President Barack Obama's deficit committee in 2010, said government leaders working to limit the national debt says that they should make sure that survivors of veterans need the money they are receiving.

"Without question, I would affluence-test all of those people," Simpson said.

Medical and scientific advancements that improve the quality of life for veterans come with a sobering cost. With greater numbers of troops surviving combat injuries, the costs of disability payments are set to rise much higher.

To gauge the post-war costs of each conflict, the Associated Press looked at four compensation programs that identify recipients by war: disabled veterans; survivors of those who died on active duty or from a service-related disability; low-income wartime vets over age 65 or disabled; and low-income survivors of wartime veterans or their disabled children.

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the first Persian Gulf conflict in the early 1990s are costing about $12 billion a year to compensate those who have left military service or family members of those who have died.

At the same time, new veterans are filing for disabilities at historic rates, with about 45 percent of those from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking compensation for injuries.

A weak economy that's led to more jobless veterans is one of the driving factors behind this trend. 

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