tampabay.com

They sacrificed. It's our turn

A Times Editorial
Published October 15, 2006


Most American civilians are not being asked to make any real financial sacrifices for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that is changing as thousands of troops injured in these conflicts start filing disability claims, according to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs that was obtained by a Washington research organization.

About one in five soldiers leaving the military have been disabled to some degree in the two conflicts. Of this group, more than 100,000 have been granted disability compensation. The numbers will increase exponentially, and taxpayers will have to start getting used to paying more as soldiers leave the service and file claims. Roughly 567,000 of the 1.5-million U.S. troops who have fought in these conflicts have been discharged. And one official predicts that if current trends hold for the next few years, more than 400,000 discharged service members probably will seek disability benefits when they retire.

Most veterans who have filed claims were found to be 30 percent disabled or less, and 1 in 10 were found to be 100 percent disabled.

Another problem is that a disproportionately high number of National Guard and Reserve members are being denied disability benefits compared with the number of active duty soldiers. Officials are trying to find the cause of this differential.

The bottom line is that taxpayers will be forced to do more than pay lip service to supporting the troops as the two conflicts rage on and as injuries and disability claims mount. Americans out of uniform need to prepare to make some real financial sacrifices for those who wear the uniform, who risk life and limb to defend us against terrorism.