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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Christian Science Monitor Brings OEF/OIF Veteran Care Numbers Together

A piece by the Christian Science Monitor yesterday gathers some of the numbers concerning the health care of our returning troops:

•Of the more than 1.4 million service men and women who have served in the two war zones, nearly 700,000 have become eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care, of whom about 230,000 have sought such care since 2002.

• Depending on future force deployments, VA medical costs associated with Iraq and Afghanistan could total between $7 billion and $9 billion over the next decade, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections. Disability compensation and survivors' benefits could add another $3 billion to $4 billion.

• A total of about 30,000 troops have been wounded in action. The survival rate of those wounded is higher than it was in Vietnam and much higher than World War II, due to body armor, advances in battlefield medical procedures, and more rapid evacuation.

Put another way, this means the number of those killed is a relatively smaller portion of overall casualties. It also means concern is growing about injuries and ailments that have come to mark this war: amputations, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and the mental and emotional shock of combat.

"Of the [Iraq/Afghanistan] veterans who sought care from VA, about 38 percent have received at least a preliminary diagnosis of a mental health condition, and 18 percent have received a preliminary diagnosis for PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], making it the most common, but by no means, the only mental health condition related to the stress of deployment," Michael Kussman, undersecretary of the Veterans Health Administration, told a House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing last week.

According to the Congressional Research Service, between 2003 and 2007 about 60,000 troops were diagnosed with either PTSD or TBI.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

One more snippet:

In recent congressional testimony, Joseph Wilson of the American Legion cited federal studies showing that by 2020, projected retirements will create a shortage of about 24,000 physicians and almost 1 million nurses nationwide.

"Another challenge [is] acquiring staff trained in certain specialty fields … physical medicine and rehabilitation, blind rehabilitation, speech and language pathology, physical therapy, and certified rehabilitation nursing," warned Mr. Wilson. "Given the special rehabilitative and long-term care needs of combat wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – especially those residing in rural areas – shortages in these specialty fields will have a lasting impact on these veterans as they attempt to resume independent functioning."

More OEF/OIF stats as of March 2007 (will be updated in the coming weeks). And don't forget to click on the 'stats' label below for more.

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