USA Today: VA Disability filings sky high
A staggering 45% of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21% who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told the Associated Press.
I don't really get why that would be surprising. The Gulf War lasted months, with only a portion of it being direct combat, whereas Iraq and Afghanistan (and other AO's) have lasted years. Which isn't to belittle the great work of folks in Desert Storm and Shield, but longer deployments like this are going to yield more disabilities. Just look at the direct line casaulties alone. In the Gulf War we had 148 American's killed, and 458 wounded. Casaulties in OEF (HERE) and OIF (HERE) were orders of magnitude higher.
But like I said, the numbers are fairly interesting:
• More than 1,600 of them lost a limb; many others lost fingers or toes.
• At least 156 are blind, and thousands of others have impaired vision.
• More than 177,000 have hearing loss, and more than 350,000 report tinnitus — noise or ringing in the ears.
• Thousands are disfigured, as many as 200 of them so badly that they may need face transplants. One-quarter of battlefield injuries requiring evacuation included wounds to the face or jaw, one study found.
"The numbers are pretty staggering," says Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who has done four face transplants on non-military patients and expects to start doing them soon on veterans.
Others have invisible wounds. More than 400,000 of these new veterans have been treated by the VA for a mental health problem, most commonly PTSD.
You should go read the whole thing, but it makes me wonder what the actuarials were thinking when they predicted the number of folks who would use the VA for their healthcare, a point made by one of our people this morning in an MSNBC article:
American Legion research has shown that only about half of military members who have returned home from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have enrolled in the VA for health care.
“We are worried about the other half, whether they know if benefits are available to them,” Gadd [deputy director for health care with the American Legion] said.
Gadd said some veterans may be choosing not to seek out health care, especially if they have post-traumatic stress or other conditions they fear could carry a stigma.
I think you can safely assume that you can add in folks who read articles like the above one and have seen how the VA was unprepared by the numbers of folks coming into the system and just decided it would be easier to go elsewhere.