New Harvard Study Shows Iraq War Costs $1 Trillion for Veterans

IAVA “Storms the Hill,” Demands Congress Fix VA’s Claim Delay and Error Crisis.  

Ten years ago this week, the war in Iraq began with airstrikes on Baghdad.  But only now is the U.S. public learning about the enormous and long-term human and financial costs.

According to a new study written by Linda J. Bilmes, a professor at Harvard University, the price tag to date of the war in Iraq already reached a staggering $1.7 trillion.  And these expenses, the study concludes, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest.  That price tag includes as much as $1 trillion for a lifetime of Veteran healthcare and disability benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is taking these cold, hard facts to Congress this week with an urgent plea for Senators and Representatives to fix VA’s broken claims system.  Nearly 200,000 recent war Veterans are waiting on a VA disability claim decision, out of 900,000 total Veterans waiting nationwide.

Approximately 2.5 million service men and women deployed to war since 9/11, with 6,658 fatalities as of this month.  As of September 2012, more than 1.5 million troops had returned home and left active military duty, thereby becoming Veterans eligible for VA medical care and benefits.  Nearly 900,000 new war Veterans already used VA for healthcare.  As the remaining one million deployed service members are discharged over the next ten years, VA can expect a continuing wave of new patients and disability claims.

Based on VA reports indicating more than 10,000 new Iraq and Afghanistan war Veteran patients are treated each month at VA hospitals and clinics, the total of recent war Veteran patients and claims may exceed one million by the end of 2013. Among current Veteran patients, 30 percent are diagnosed by VA with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to VA’s own numbers obtained by Bergmann & Moore, who then provided the statistics to Professor Bilmes as well as Brown University’s Catherine Lutz.

If the disturbing trend continues, VA may have as many as 300,000 Veteran patients diagnosed by VA with PTSD by the end of the year. Yet only slightly more than half of those Veterans were granted VA disability benefits for PTSD, which is shocking and glaring evidence that VA’s claim system remains broken.

The question on everyone’s mind remains obvious: When will VA ever provide prompt and accurate claim decisions for our returning war Veterans?

Seeking an answer to this question once and for all, IAVA, the largest organization representing post-/9/11 Veterans, this week rolls out its Storm the Hill campaign.  The purpose of Storm the Hill is to bring an end to VA’s outrageous disability claim delay and error crisis.

IAVA is asking President Barack Obama to end the VA’s claim delay and error crisis causing so much distress for our Veterans.  Leaders from the group will present the non-profit’s petition at a March 20 meeting at the White House.

The 45 IAVA leaders participating in Storm The Hill come from 22 different states and represent IAVA’s nationwide membership.  One of the 2013 IAVA “Stormers” is Army Veteran Zach McIlwain, who deployed for two combat deployments in Iraq. He filed several claims for VA disability benefits in 2009 and has been waiting more than 900 days to resolve his claim.  The process remains so arduous he’s tempted to give up and he feels like he can’t move forward with his life. You can meet the rest of IAVA’s Stormers here.

Veterans are suffering and VA’s disability claim delay and error crisis must be fixed now. Our men and women who defended our Constitution earned nothing less.

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