The Huffington Post has published a piece on the Associated Press report that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate.
As of this writing, there are already 618 comments (with 34 more pending).
I realize that many of our readers would not “be caught dead” visiting the HuffPost.
However, I would recommend that you take a chance this Memorial Day and venture to that site and browse through those comments.
Skip the ones that blame Bush for the Iraq disaster and that blame Obama for the continuing carnage in Afghanistan.
Skip the ones that reflect a twisted political or anti-war agenda.
And especially skip the callous and cynical comments such as “Great—-just what the USA needs—-more entitlements!!!” and ”Those are the things you need to think about before you sign up to go to foreign countries to kill the local inhabitants.”
Some will say, “That doesn’t leave many.” Perhaps, but those that “are left” are the heart wrenching accounts by widows, wives, sons and daughters of our veterans from our many wars, that tell us that these wounds and injuries — physical and mental — are real, are horrendous and debilitating and must be adequately addressed by the nation and the people who sent these brave men and women into battle.
And while our readers are at it, perhaps they may also want to read an opinion piece in the New York Times, written by a former U.S. Marine who, in 2001, was part of the initial force of Marines who landed in Afghanistan and who, in 2003, took part in the heavy fighting of the first wave of the invasion of Iraq, and who writes about the hell he has been through since coming home.
As we remember and honor those who have fought and died in all our wars, let us not forget the hundreds of thousands who have been injured and continue to be injured — physically and mentally — in our two most recent wars.
This sad reality is poignantly brought home this Memorial Day weekend by an Associated Press report, published in the Stars and Stripes which tells us that an astounding “45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related.”
According to the Stars and Stripes:
That is more than double the estimated 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told the AP.
These new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.”
In its report, the Associated Press postulates that there may be many factors that drive up these figures: “[T]he weak economy, more troops surviving wounds, and more awareness of problems such as concussions and PTSD.”
Other factors and circumstances pointed out by the Associated Press which “spent three months reviewing records and talking with doctors, government officials and former troops to take stock of the new veterans” :
More — 28 percent of those filing disability claims — are from the Reserves and National Guard rather than career military.
“More of the new veterans are women, accounting for 12 percent of those who have sought care through the VA… Some female veterans are claiming PTSD due to military sexual trauma…”
The different types of injuries incurred by the new veterans, such as those caused by improvised bombs and the fact that improved body armor and improved battlefield care has “allowed many of them to survive wounds that in past wars proved fatal.”
Please read more about these somber statistics and the horrific injuries adding up to some staggering numbers here.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.