Both George W.
Bush and Congress
have often failed to
provide the VA with
enough money to
cover its veteran
health care costs.
The American Spark
Many Wounded Veterans Face Bankruptcy
By Cliff Montgomery - Sept. 30th, 2007
The marine served America well on September 11th, 2001. He pulled charred bodies from what remained of
the Pentagon, actions which earned him a medal for heroism. This American--who had earned $100,000 a
year, obtained a master's degree in management and had excelled at logistics--witnessed even more terrors in
Iraq and Kuwait.
Now, the 38-year-old former marine who served so proudly cannot pay his bills. His thoughts of suicide, violent
flashbacks and worry over imagined terrors--well-documented in the last six years of his military record--keep
him from holding a steady job.
The $4,330 in U.S. Government checks he receives each month--its compensation for his complete disability
from shell-shock--can't begin to cover his $43,000 of accumulated credit card debt. His disability checks also
cannot cover the $5,700 he owes every month in adjustable home mortgage and equity loan payments.
The bank may soon take his house.
"I love this house. It makes me feel safe," he tells the Associated Press (AP).
He struggles to fight the thoughts of suicide torturing his brain.
The story of former Marine Gamal Awad, son of a Sudanese immigrant, is typical for a sad but growing
number of war veterans who find themselves drowning in economic debt.
Thanks to modern military medicine, a record number of U.S. troops are returning home alive. But an
unintended consequence is beginning to show itself. These same vets often find themselves suffering from
long-time mental and physical disabilities, the inevitable result of combating hidden enemies along practically
non-existent battle lines.
Their treatment and recovery often won't come immediately, and it certainly won't be cheap.
Over 185,000 vets from Afghanistan and Iraq currently are seeking government-sponsored treatment for
war-related disabilities. The numbers can only grow--and so must the cost of providing America's veterans with
But such care already is stretching government resources. The economic and medical strain on existing
structures may threaten veteran care for decades, proclaim both veterans' groups and economists.
"The wounded and their families no longer trust that the government will take care of them the way they
thought they'd be taken care of," veterans advocate Mary Ellen Salzano tells AP.
A war veteran has very right to be treated "as a hero," adds Salzano.
Let's be honest, these rising veteran costs certainly won't destroy America's $13 trillion annual economy. Nor
in any real sense should it bankrupt the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which already handles over
5.5 million patients every year. But the soaring cost will squeeze government budgets and service agencies,
regardless of who is in charge of the White House after its current 'National Nightmare' becomes a thing of the
Economic forecasts are all over the map when it comes to cost projections for future veteran care--perhaps
each projection says as much about the preconceptions of those creating the study as anything else.
In any case, some studies predict that the federal cost of veteran care will soar up to $700 billion--a cost which
may rival the price tag for the fruitless nation-building of Iraq.
Both George W. Bush and Congress have failed to provide the VA with enough money to cover its spiraling
veteran health care costs. The agency often has been forced to beg for billions more than was provided for
veterans' care in federal budgets.
So we shouldn't be surprised to discover that these health care costs typically are absorbed by veterans and
their loved ones.
Ted Wade can neither drive a vehicle nor remember things as he should since a bomb ripped off an arm,
damaged his foot and scrambled his mind in Iraq.
The Chapel Hill, NC resident and his wife now "enjoy" a lower standard of living. They've even had to allow their
parents to make their house payments--a move which ultimately provides a further economic strain on already
struggling military families.
"I can't work because he can't be up here by himself," his wife, Sarah, tells AP.
"It's my volunteer work, is what it really comes down to," she adds.
The Pentagon, the Labor Department and the Social Security Administration contribute needed federal
benefits, as do some other government agencies.
The VA appears to treat quite well the major, obvious wounds of veterans, and many add that the VA does
very well with such cases in their early months.
But several veterans and their families add that the VA far too often restricts a veteran's rehabilitation, or cuts
off the treatment much too quickly.
Insurance for more disabling injuries may be obtained at relatively little cost to military members. It covers up to
$100,000 of rehabilitation costs. But many say this just isn't enough.
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