Tuesday, July 31, 2007
A homeless veteran lies on a bed at New Directions, a private nonprofit residential and substance-abuse program for homeless veterans in Los Angeles Already, nearly 200,000 veterans—many from the Vietnam War—sleep on the streets every night, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.In 2004 the homeless vet count hit 500,000.
How far does the $4 billion "homeless budget" go for the 500,000 homeless vets? Not including the other 254,000 estimated homeless? I'm terrible at math...is that a hundred bucks each?
I read the following article in Harper's a couple of years ago...and it's haunted me since...and Cappy's recent post reminded me of it again....
Yet the story of this war cannot be told solely in the count of its dead. Some 12,500 American G.I.s (note: this figure is over 30,000 today) have been wounded in Iraq. Eight soldiers have been wounded for every one killed, about double the rate in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. The percentage of soldiers who have undergone amputations is twice that of any of our past military conflicts; nearly a quarter of all the wounded suffer from traumatic head injuries, far more than in our other recent wars. These are soldiers who have survived Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and car bombs, who are living with mangled limbs, eye injuries, and brain damage. The true legacy of this war will be seen not in the memorials to those lost forever but in the cabinets of files in the neurosurgical and orthopedic wards at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in the backlog of cases at Veterans Affairs.
The hidden economic costs of the war in Iraq will not be found in the immediate treatment of the wounded or in increases to military death benefits. As expensive or labor-intensive as these might be, the largest monetary costs will involve the long-term care of thousands of severely and irrevocably damaged veterans; and these costs will only increase as the years pass. We are going to have to care and pay for a very large number of patients with what are, in any honest prognosis, lifelong disabilities. The price tag will be staggering. An above-the-knee computerized limb prosthesis--made of graphite and titanium, and battery powered with a microprocessor built in to better control movement--costs $ 50,000. A below-the-knee prosthesis is priced at between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000, and then there's the constant attention and ongoing readjustments needed to keep the prosthesis operational. The three types of upper-extremity prostheses offered by the military range in price from $ 5,000 to $ 100,000; patients are given one of each, in order to use them in different situations. In the past two years, there have been numerous multiple amputees who have needed double and triple prostheses.
Ultimately, if the Bush Administration continues its refusal to accept the realities of this conflict, the most enduring images of the Iraq war will be the sight of legless and addled beggars on our street corners holding cardboard signs that read: IRAQ VET. HUNGRY AND HOMELESS. PLEASE HELP. Harper's, August 12th, 2005
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