Mark Benjamin Monday, October 3, 2011
Nearly three-quarters of a million veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan who are now out of the military have sought medical care from the government, and more than half of those service members suffer from a mental health condition, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
These are among the stunning numbers in a new report compiled by Veterans for Common Sense, a veterans' advocacy organization. VCS shared the new report with TIME prior to public release scheduled for this week. The group culled the information from government data mostly obtained through a raft of Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The bullet-point report portrays the sweeping impact of a decade of war on U.S. troops, including the fact that over 2.2 million service members have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and 42 percent of those troops have deployed to war two times or more.
The study reports the 6,211 deaths and 45,889 troops wounded in action so far, but it also sheds light on a dirty little secret about how the Pentagon has long minimized the number of reported casualties by excluding the number of injuries that are not the direct result of the bullets and bombs of the enemy. Another 56,874 service members have been medically evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan because of accidents and other injuries. That brings the total number of casualties to 108,974.
The Pentagon says those 56,874 troops mostly are not casualties, but troops evacuated for medical problems unrelated to service. Go visit Walter Reed and chat with the troops banged up in Humvee wrecks and other incidents and tell them that. Also, the Pentagon's own dictionary (yes, they have one) defines a casualty as, “Any person who is lost to the organization by having been declared dead, duty status - whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured.”
The precise number of service members back from war, out of the military, and seeking treatment from the VA is 711,986, according to VCS. More that half of those troops, 367,749, suffers from a mental health condition.
A typical veteran is in his early twenties. The U.S. will be caring for hundreds of thousands of these vets for decades.