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How many veterans are disabled?

The war in Afghanistan is drawing down. Yet the disability problems faced by veterans who served there and in other places are as urgent as ever.

In our December 26 post, we discussed the problem of veterans having to wait before receiving their disability benefits because their claims are still being processed. The Veterans Affairs department (VA) and the Social Security Administration have said they will coordinate better so that veterans can obtain their Social Security disability benefits on an expedited basis.

Streamlining the claims process is especially important given the sheer number of veterans who are disabled. Dating back to World War II, the number of disabled veterans in the U.S. now stands at 3.4 million. This number includes both men and men.

To be sure, 85 percent of veterans are not disabled. But the 15 percent who are disabled face a host of challenges, including getting the resources and assistance they need to accomplish the tasks of daily living.

The cost of providing those resources adds up, of course. The VA said this week that the cost of caring for disabled veterans is now more than twice as much as it was only a little over a decade ago. It has gone from $14.8 billion in 2000 to $39.4 billion in 2011.

An undersecretary at the VA acknowledged that costs have escalated. But that was to be expected, given all the injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those two wars severely strained the military and resulted in multiple deployments for both active duty and National Guard troops. According to VA data, almost half of the veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed disability claims.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) grab most of the media attention regarding returning vets. But the types of impairments that veterans experience also include many issues involving ligaments and discs in both backs and legs. Many of these issues were brought on by wearing body army for extended periods of time.

Source: "Veteran disability costs more than doubled since 2000," USA Today, Gregg Zoroya and Meghan Hoyer, 1-15-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in Michigan. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Social Security disability page.

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