The Associated Press reported this week that more new veterans than ever are filing for veterans’ disability benefits after they return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Government officials are concerned about the best way to pay these claims, provide these veterans with adequate healthcare, and make certain that these veterans have an opportunity to heal and work.
The federal government told the AP this week that a shocking 45 percent of returning veterans are filing disability claims – and that their claims are significantly more complex than claims during past wars such as the Gulf War and the Vietnam War. About 736,000 of these newest veterans have already filed claims, with the most recently returning veterans claiming 11 to 14 different ailments each. Veterans in recent years have been claiming an average of eight or nine, while veterans from Vietnam claimed an average of four and veterans from World War II claimed an average of two.
What is the cause of these rising claims – and the rising complexity of claims? Economic experts and veteran experts agree that it is a combination of issues. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced more soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, probably because of how those conflicts have been fought. In addition, more soldiers are surviving catastrophic injuries than ever before due to improvised bombs and improved medical response. Finally, the weak economy and job market have forced many veterans to file claims instead of supporting themselves through employment.