Taking Care of the Troops Could Cost $663 Billion
Bush wants another tax cut for the wealthy and the troops he pretends to support can't get adequate healthcare:
It could cost the VA at least $350 billion to provide disability compensation and health care to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, according to a Harvard University researcher's conservative estimate. Those costs could climb as high as $663 billion, if many troops remain at war much longer and health care costs inflate.
"We're running up a bill that we'll be paying for the next 50 years," said Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs for Veterans for America, a national veterans advocacy organization.
The nation has committed $427 billion to war costs, not including VA expenses. Pending budget requests would raise the total to $662 billion.
It's not just the long-term taxpayer cost of VA benefits that worries veterans advocates.
The VA in the past few years has had health care funding shortfalls. Veterans groups worry that escalating costs could lead the agency to ration resources by delaying or limiting access to health care and by taking longer to process disability claims.
The VA's ability to provide high-quality, timely mental health care already is showing signs of strain.