It was not good news for Memorial Day: about 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are seeking disability benefits for injuries, psychological and physical, from combat.
The figure emerged following three months of reporting and digging by the Associated Press, a story that was widely carried in newspapers Monday.
The rate of those seeking disabilities, and the number of ailments they claim to have, has skyrocketed compared to more recent wars, according to AP. For example, the 45 percent figure is more than twice the 21 percent who lodged such claims in the 1990s after the Gulf War, AP reported.
The wire service pointed out that it is unclear if the recent vets are really so badly off, or if there are other factors driving the spike in disability claims. After all, vets today know about the dangers of concussions and are aware of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); more badly wounded soldiers and surviving; and this group face a brutal economy where it’s tough to find work.
AP pointed out that the latest batch of combat veterans is overwhelming the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has not special fund to help out these men and women.
The physical injuries that veterans must live with after surviving are heartbreaking. But of course, the signature injury of the Afghan and Iraq wars — traumatic brain injury, TBI — is proving especially daunting for the military to treat and deal with.
More than 400,000 of the so-called “new veterans ” have gotten treatment for mental woes, typically PTSD, AP reported. The wire service said that “tens of thousands” of veterans have sustained TBI due to concussions from bomb explosions.