Injured Vets Wonder If Country Will Now Sacrifice for Them

Rob Hotakainen | The Seattle Times | July 27, 2011

Nicely told her family's story as the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee began examining the lifelong human and financial costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and what additional preparations will be required to care for the 2.3 million veterans who have fought them. While the exact long-term-care cost is uncertain, the head of one veterans group — the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America — told senators it could hit $1 trillion.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released at the hearing projected that, through the year 2020, the annual federal costs will jump from the 2010 level of $1.9 billon to between $5.5 billion and $8.4 billion annually by 2020.

"The costs are clear, and they are tremendous," said Paul Rieckhoff, the group's executive director, who served as an infantry platoon leader with the Army National Guard in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. "But so is the sacrifice these men and women have made for our nation."

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who called the hearing, said a half-million veterans from the two wars already have found their way into the system operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of more than 100 percent since 2008.