Care for U.S. veterans could cost $662 bln: study

Friday, February 2, 2007; 2:08 PM

BOSTON (Reuters) - Medical costs for U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could range from $350 billion to $662 billion over the next 40 years, as soldiers survive injuries that would have killed them in past conflicts, according to a Harvard University study.

Due to improvements in battlefield medicine and equipment, there are now about 16 "nonmortally wounded" soldiers for every death, far more than the 2.6 soldiers wounded per death in Vietnam, the study said, citing Department of Veterans' Affairs data.

The author of the study, Linda Bilmes, a lecturer at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, presented her findings at an academic conference in January. They were released publicly by the university this week.

The potential costs include medical care, disability payments and other benefits paid to injured veterans and assume that 44 percent of veterans eventually claim disability. That was the percentage of claims from the first Gulf War. Bilmes' calculations assume that by 2016, 2 million soldiers will have participated in these wars.

Spending on health care has been on the rise in the United States in recent years and now accounts for more than 15 percent of the U.S. economic output, according to data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that funds research on health care.

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