Bureau of Labor Statistics: About 633,000 veterans have service-connected disability
After more than a decade of continuous warfare, the cost of disability compensation for wounded veterans is surging to mammoth proportions.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects to spend $57 billion on disability benefits next year. That's up 25% from $46 billion this year, and nearly quadruple the $15 billion spent in 2000, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
"This is the cost of going to war," said Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served as assistant secretary of defense during the Ronald Reagan administration. "We've made so much progress in medicine [that] you're going to have a lot of people survive their injuries who didn't in the past."
About 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq and about 1,800 have been killed in Afghanistan. Some 633,000 veterans -- one out of every four of the 2.3 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- have a service-connected disability, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The VA designates some of these veterans as partially disabled, while others are considered fully disabled, depending on the extent of their injuries. The classifications determine how much money they're paid in benefits, but it doesn't prevent disabled vets from earning their own money, if they're capable of doing so.