SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 30, 2013

Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan wars keeps mounting

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately cost between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, with medical care and disability benefits weighing heavily for decades to come, according to a new analysis.

The bill to taxpayers so far has been $2 trillion, plus $260 billion in interest on the resulting debt. By comparison, the current federal budget is $3.8 trillion.

The costs of the wars will continue to mount, said the study’s author, Linda Bilmes, a public policy expert at Harvard University.

The largest future expenses will be medical care and disability benefits for veterans, Bilmes predicted. “The big, big cost comes 30 or 40 years out,” she said.

The wars, taken together, will be the most expensive in U.S. history — and not just because of their duration. The government has greatly expanded the services available to veterans and military personnel in the past decade. Compared with past conflicts, a far greater proportion of returning service members are seeking medical care and benefits.

Of the 1.56 million troops that have been discharged, more than half have received treatment at Veterans Affairs facilities and filed claims for lifetime disability payments, the study found.

Many suffered injuries that would have been fatal a generation ago. Others have post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health problems that in previous wars often went undiagnosed and untreated.

The government has already spent $134 billion on medical care and disability benefits for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bilmes estimated that in coming decades these benefits would cost an additional $836 billion.

Estimating the long-term costs of the wars is an exercise in uncertainty. Most studies have looked at the problem in pieces, and usually no more than a decade into the future.

In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office examined the potential impact on the Department of Veterans Affairs and predicted that in 2020, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would account for 16 percent of veterans in the system and 8 percent of a $69 billion health care budget. The majority of VA users would still be older veterans of earlier wars, and conditions such as diabetes would be driving the costs.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Vehicle Day 2 PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Vehicle Day at Ipswich Public Library Kids got to climb inside big trucks at Vehicle Day Friday, July 25, at Ipswich Public Library.

    July 26, 2014

  • 140725_ET_PBI_MBRALLY_7 [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Thousands rally for Arthur T. in Tewksbury

    TEWKSBURY -- Air horns blared. Signs were hoisted. There were plush giraffes, construction paper giraffes, giraffes on T-shirts and hand drawn giraffes peppered the parking lot of the Market Basket at Stadium Plaza, just down the street from the com

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos 7 Stories

  • 140725_ET_PBI_MBRALLY_1.jpg PHOTO SLIDESHOW: MARKET BASKET RALLY Thousands of people converged at the site of the Tewksbury store this morning for another rally by employees and supporters who feel disenfranchised by the ouster of CEO Arthur T. Demoulas by the company board of directors led by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas.

    July 25, 2014

  • Hamilton church volunteers assaulted in Guatemala

    A local church group returning to Guatemala City airport after eight days of mission work was attacked Tuesday.

    July 25, 2014

  • BREAKING: Market Basket board to consider sale to Arthur T. Demoulas

    BOSTON — Market Basket’s board of directors this afternoon announced it will consider offers to buy the company, including that from ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. His offer will be considered “along with any other offers previously received and to b

    July 25, 2014 7 Stories