Apr. 7, VCS Editorial: High Praise for Public Service Performed by Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes

April 7, 2008 – Columbia University Professor Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, and his colleague, Harvard University Professor Linda Bilmes, deserve our gratitude for informing Americans about the human and financial costs of the Iraq War in their new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War.”

Their outstanding book, with dozens of pages of detailed footnotes and sources, is the epitome of public service in a time of war.

The facts are clear and overwhelming: The Bush Administration has failed our military service members and our veterans who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The tip of the iceberg was the outrageous and unconscionable Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal.

The situation for veterans and their families worsened when Americans learned that suicidal Iraq War veterans were improperly turned away from emergency medical care.

The statistics pried from the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) during the past two years provides strong and convincing evidence that the Bush Administration intentionally concealed the staggering and growing human and financial costs of the two wars from the public, from Congress, and from journalists.

For example, VCS obtained official DoD documents confirming 73,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  In another example, VCS obtained official VA documents confirming 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans already treated at VA hospitals, including 120,000 for mental health conditions.

Using the documents VCS obtained under FOIA, and combining it with publicly available cost information, Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes conservatively estimate more than 700,000 total walking wounded casualties costing U.S. taxpayers up to $700 billion over the next 40 years.  The total cost of the Iraq War alone is $3 trillion, and most likely higher.  The longer the wars last, then the higher the number of battlefield casualties and unexpected veteran patients flooding into VA.

Veterans for Common Sense salutes Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes for performing an enormous public service on behalf of all 300 million Americans by fully documenting the human and financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

VCS wants our veterans to know about VA, for our veterans to want to use VA, and for VA to be ready, willing, and able to assist veterans with prompt and high-quality healthcare and benefits when they arrive – They earned it. 

With the reliable and salient information from the book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” the public and Congress can make better policies for our service members and veterans in an effort to prevent more Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandals and to prevent more suicides.

We ask, when will we learn the lessons from the past and see these headlines in the news: “VA Announces Plan to End Waiting for Healthcare and Claims for All Veterans,” “VA Scaps 26-Page Claim Form, Allows Veterans to Hire Attorneys to Streamline Claims,” “Veterans Applaud VA and Military Effort to Examine All Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans for TBI and PTSD,” and “Number of Homeless Veterans Drops to Nearly Zero.”

Never again will our Nation abandon or neglect our veterans, as happened to many veterans after the Vietnam War and Gulf War.  Yes, America, in the next few years we can do it right for all veterans and the newest generation of veterans.  And thanks goes to Professors Bilmes and Stiglitz for shining so many bright academic, media, and legislative spot lights on this issue. 

Paul Sullivan
Executive Director
Veterans for Common Sense
Post Office Box 15514
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 558-4553 

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