Today, Americans should ask: Are we doing enough for soldiers who return home suffering from all sorts of war-related injuries?
In simplest terms, the answer is no. The cases of more than 560,000 U.S. veterans of its past wars who have filed disability claims are backlogged (older than 125 days), according to a compelling Associated Press story in Monday’s Star. The causes are numerous, from cases’ complexity to an increase in new cases filed each year.
Here’s the unforgettable part: Nearly half (45 percent) of U.S. veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have filed claims for medical disability. As the AP reported, that’s more than double the amount from the Gulf War in the early 1990s and well above totals from the nation’s other 20th-century wars. Increasingly, America’s soldiers are returning home in worse physical shape than when they were first deployed.
Helping wounded soldiers isn’t a cheap expense. Well-staffed hospitals and offices for physical therapy and mental health are costly. They take fiscal commitments from lawmakers. When combined with the length of recent wars — the U.S. military has been in Afghanistan since 2001 — and the number of soldiers who’ve served multiple deployments, it’s no surprise the number of soldiers seeking disability claims is skyrocketing.
Much can be said, good and bad, about how the United States cares for its wounded soldiers. Any nation that asks so much of its fighting men and women should return the favor — quickly, and in good faith.