People should consider costs of American wars, do more for disabled veterans

People+should+consider+costs+of+American+wars%2C+do+more+for+disabled+veterans

Chenyao Liu

On Aug. 31, the last U.S. plane lifted off from Kabul International Airport, marking the end of the War in Afghanistan, America’s longest military conflict. But while the major conflicts may be over, the collateral human damage remains in the large number of veterans who still need help.

According to the Associated Press, almost 2,500 American service members were killed in the Afghanistan War, and that number doesn’t include those who suffered life-long injuries. The U.S. Department of Defense states almost 20,800 U.S. military troops were wounded in Afghanistan alone. According to the National Library of Medicine, out of the thousands of veterans that were injured and lost a limb in post-9/11 wars, many lost more than one. According to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, “about 40% to 60% (of these injured veterans) also sustained a brain injury.” 

I have many disagreements with the way the post-9/11 conflicts have been fought by the American military. But more importantly, I don’t believe the U.S. military and government do enough to acknowledge the detrimental impacts these conflicts have on the soldiers who fight in them. 

In recent years, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) expanded health care services and reduced veterans’ homelessness, but that’s not enough. The VA’s largest and possibly most important program, disability compensation, pays veterans based on the degree to which they’re disabled, offering no incentive or rehabilitation for veterans to improve their conditions and get back to work. The VA also has conditions on who can receive full disability benefits, for example, veterans with less than 20 years of service get their disability pay deducted from their retirement pay. The U.S. spends trillions on private military contractors. I argue a portion of that money should be redistributed to help the people that actually fight these wars. 

There are many bills in state and national legislatures aimed at addressing these issues. Even as students, we can call or email our legislators to ask them to support bills like the Major Richard Star Act, which would allow a veteran with a combat-related disability and fewer than 20 years of service to receive full retirement and disability pay, or the Presumptive Benefits Act, which would make it easier for soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals to receive disability benefits. 

While it might seem easy to just say “thank you for your service”, remember there’s more that can be done to help and appreciate veterans. 

To view more of Chenyao Liu’s work, click here.

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