How Much Are Post War Costs?

In a prior post we noted the increasing costs of caring for disabled veterans. Specifically, such costs had increased from $14.8 billion in 2000 to $39.4 billion as of 2011. Indeed, multiple deployments and wars on several fronts contribute to the increase in post war costs, but a recent Associated Press report suggests that the continuing financial impact should affect future decisions to wage war.

The AP analyzed the continuing costs of compensating survivors of veterans who died in American conflicts within the last 100 years, as well as those who passed away due to service related injuries.

Not surprisingly, such costs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the Persian Gulf War average nearly $12 billion per year, and are poised to increase as more veterans seek benefits. However, 40 years after the Vietnam War ended, post war costs are more than $22 billion each year. The AP estimates that the war actually cost the U.S. government $738 billion in 2011 dollars, with post war costs being $270 billion.

Post war costs associated with World War II are nearly $5 billion per year. The AP reports that compensation for these veterans and their families peaked in 1991 (more than four decades after the war ended). Since then, costs have declined by 25 percent. Meanwhile, similar costs for Korean War are $2.8 billion each year. Lastly, World War I benefits cost nearly $20 million annually.

The article did not suggest that veterans should not seek compensation for their injuries. After all, it is the promise that is guaranteed to every American who chooses to serve their country. Rather, it is a reminder that policy makers should be wary of the long-term costs of engaging in military conflicts.

Source: NPR.org, Costs of US wars linger for 100 years, March 19, 2013.