The annual budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs has more than doubled since 2003 to a requested $132 billion for fiscal 2012. That amount is expected to rise sharply over the next four decades as lingering health problems for veterans become more serious as they grow older.
Costs for Vietnam veterans did not peak until 30 or 40 years after the end of the war, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “We will have a vast overhang in domestic costs for caring for the wounded and covering retirement expenditure of the war fighters,” said Loren Thompson, a policy expert with the Lexington Institute. “The U.S. will continue to incur major costs for decades to come.”