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This paper analyzes the long-term needs of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and the budgetary and structural consequences of these needs. The paper uses data from government sources, such as the Veterans Benefit Administration Annual Report. The main conclusions of the analysis are that: (a) the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is already overwhelmed by the volume of returning veterans and the seriousness of their health care needs, and it will not be able to provide a high quality of care in a timely fashion to the large wave of returning war veterans without greater funding and increased capacity in areas such as psychiatric care; (b) the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is in need of structural reforms in order to deal with the high volume of pending claims; the current claims process is unable to handle even the current volume and completely inadequate to cope with the high demand of returning war veterans; and (c) the budgetary costs of providing disability compensation benefits and medical care to the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of their lives will be from $350 - $700 Billion, depending on the length of deployment of US soldiers, the speed with which they claim disability benefits and the growth rate of benefits and health care inflation. Key recommendations include: increase staffing and funding for veterans medical care particularly for mental health treatment; expand staffing and funding for the “Vet Centers,” and restructure the benefits claim process at the Veterans Benefit Administration.
Bilmes, Linda. "Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Long-term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP07-001, January 2007.