HKS Authors

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Between 2001 and 2050, the total costs of caring for veterans of the post-9/11 wars are estimated to reach between $2.2 and $2.5 trillion. This includes the amount already paid in disability and related benefits and medical care, as well as the projected future cost of lifetime disability benefits and health care for those who have served in the military during these wars. This estimate is double the author’s previous projections in 2011 and 2013. Several factors account for this dramatic increase. These include: extraordinarily high rates of disabilities among this cohort of veterans, greater outreach by the federal government to inform veterans of their eligibility for benefits, more generous eligibility and benefit compensation, as well as more advanced and expensive medical care, and substantial investment by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to process and administer claims and benefit programs and deliver health care. Federal expenditures to care for veterans doubled from 2.4 percent of the U.S. budget in FY 2001 to 4.9 percent in FY 2020, even as the total number of living veterans from all U.S. wars declined from 25.3 million to 18.5 million.


Bilmes, Linda J. "The Long-Term Costs of United States Care for Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP21-024, September 2021.