Mike Baker, “Costs of U.S. Wars Linger for Over 100 Years,” Associated Press, March 19, 2013.
If history is any judge, the U.S. government will be paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the next century as service members and their families grapple with the sacrifices of combat.
An Associated Press analysis of federal payment records found that the government is still making monthly payments to relatives of Civil War veterans — 148 years after the conflict ended.
At the 10 year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, more than $40 billion a year are going to compensate veterans and survivors from the Spanish-American War from 1898, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns and the Afghanistan conflict. And those costs are rising rapidly.
—The Iraq wars and Afghanistan
So far, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the first Persian Gulf conflict in the early 1990s are costing about $12 billion a year to compensate those who have left military service or family members of those who have died.
Those post-service compensation costs have totaled more than $50 billion since 2003, not including expenses of medical care and other benefits provided to veterans, and are poised to grow for many years to come.
It’s been 40 years since the U.S. ended its involvement in the Vietnam War, and yet payments for the conflict are still rising. Now above $22 billion annually, Vietnam compensation costs are roughly twice the size of the FBI’s annual budget.
A congressional analysis estimated the cost of fighting the war was $738 billion in 2011 dollars, and the post-war benefits for veterans and families have separately cost some $270 billion since 1970, according to AP calculations.
—World War I, World War II and the Korean War
World War I, which ended 94 years ago, continues to cost taxpayers about $20 million every year. World War II? $5 billion.
Compensation for WWII veterans and families didn’t peak until 1991 — 46 years after the war ended — and annual costs since then have only declined by about 25 percent. Korean War costs appear to be leveling off at about $2.8 billion per year.
—Civil War and Spanish-American War
There are 10 living recipients of benefits tied to the 1898 Spanish-American War at a total cost of about $50,000 per year. The Civil War payments are going to two children of veterans — one in North Carolina and one in Tennessee— each for $876 per year.
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