Quotes from The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes

- ‘One hundred thousand U.S. soldiers have returned from the war suffering from serious mental health disorders, a significant fraction of which will be chronic afflictions. Miserable though Saddam Hussein’s regime was, life is actually worse for the Iraqi people now. The country’s roads, schools, hospitals, homes, and museums have been destroyed and its citizens have less access to electricity and water than before the war.’ (ix)
- ‘Instead of paying for the war in Iraq , we could have fixed the Social Security problem for the next half century. Today, a Web site run by the National Priorities Project describes the current and direct military costs of the war. A trillion dollars could have built 8 million additional housing units, [sic] could have hired some 15 million additional public school teachers for one years; could have paid for 120 million children to attend a year of Head Start; or insured 530 million children for health care for one year; or provided 43 million students with four-year scholarships at public universities. Now multiply those numbers by three.’ (xv)
- ‘We could have had a Marshall Plan for the Middle East.’ (xvi)
- ‘The world has committed itself to eradicating illiteracy by 2015. Fully funding that campaign would cost some $8 billion a year – roughly two weeks of fighting the war.’ (xvi)
- ‘Putting every child in the world in a good-quality primary school would cost between $7-$17 billion per year.’ www.unmillenniumproject.org/documents/Education-complete.pdf (238)
- ‘Beyond the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi people have seen little good come out of the war. Apart from America ’s oil and defense industries, it is hard to find any real winners.’ (xviii)
- ‘Our awareness of our potential bias has influenced this study. We have, we believe, been excessively conservative. Even employing these conservative methodologies, we arrive at numbers that are mind-boggling – and this despite the fact that our quantitative estimates omit huge costs that could not be accurately measured [like suffering].’ (xix)
- ‘Within Iraq U.S. forces are viewed as occupiers rather liberators, with polls showing that 70 percent of Iraqis want the United States to leave. Iraq ’s GDP is just revering to where it was before the war; at least one out of four is unemployed.’ (4)
- ‘In Baghdad , electricity is available for about half the number of hours daily that it was before the war. There is controversy regarding the exact number of violent Iraqi deaths to date, variously estimated from 100,000 to more than 150,000; combined with higher rates of death from others causes [like destruction of public health], ‘excess’ deaths may number 700,000 or more.’ (4-5)
- ‘Some 2 million Iraqi refugees are scattered throughout the world. These are in addition to some 2 million Iraqis who have been uprooted within their own country.’ (5)
- ‘ Sweden , a country far smaller than the United States , has accepted more refugees than the 1608 the United States had taken in by October 2007.’ (5)
- ‘On the eve of war, there were discussions of the likely costs. Larry Lindsey, President Bush’s economic adviser and head of the National Economic council, suggested that they might reach $200 billion. But this estimate was dismissed as ‘baloney’ by the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested that prewar reconstruction could pay for itself through increased oil revenues. Office of Management and Budget director Mitch Daniels and Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the costs in the range of $50-$60 billion, a portion of which they believed would be financed by other countries.’ (7)
- ‘A 2006 survey by the Department of Defense’s Central Command showed that the United States is employing more than 100,000 private contractors; this number represents a tenfold increase over the use of contractors during the Gulf War in 1991.’ (11)
- ‘The State Department alone spent more than $4 billion on security guards in 2007 – up from $1 billion three years ago. Blackwater Security got an initial toehold in 2003 with a $27 million no-bid contract to guard L. Paul Bremer III, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (the U.S. occupational authority in Baghdad ). That contract was expanded to $100 million a year later. By 2007, it held a $1.2 billion contract for Iraq and employed 845 private security contractors.’ (11-12)
- ‘Between 1998 and 2004 the DOD’s total spending on contracting increased by 105 percent, while the number of people it employed to award and supervise contracts declined by 25 percent.’ (14-15)
- ‘Halliburton’s stock price has increased – by 229 percent since the war began, exceeding even the gains by other defense firms, such as General Dynamics (134 percent), Raytheon (117 percent), Lockheed Martin (105 percent), and Northrop Grumman (78 percent).’ (15)
- ‘The world price of oil has risen from around $25 per barrel when the war started to close to $100 as this book goes to press.’ (15)
- ‘A second screening [of veterans], administered three to six months after return, showed 20.3 percent of active and 42.4 percent of reserve component soldiers as requiring mental health treatment.’ (18)
- ‘The way that the U.S. government does its accounting further obscures the true costs of the war. The standard method that the government uses to keep its books is based on ‘cash’ accounting. This logs what is actually spent today but ignores future obligations, including, in the case of war, such factors as future health care and disability costs… The problems with cash accounting are so serious that all businesses in America larger than a corner grocery store are required by law to use ‘accrual’ accounting – a system that shows future costs as they are incurred, not when they are actually spent down the road.’ (18-19)
- ‘It is difficult to understand why, five years into the war, we are still funding it in largely the same manner. The pattern of asking for money in dribs and drabs, constantly revising the total costs – always upward – has continued.’ (21)
- ‘We have based all of our estimates and assumptions on government sources… We have also used data from respected independent sources such as the National Institute of Medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine, the National Brian Injury Association… as well as data secured for us under the Freedom of Information Act by veterans’ organizations.’ (25)
- ‘Most economists would not count both interest and economic costs, because there is an element of double counting. Thus, we estimate that the total cost of the war ranges from $2.7 trillion in strictly budgetary costs to $5 trillion in total economic costs. We also considered a ‘best case’ scenario in which the United States would withdraw all its combat troops by 2012 and fewer veterans would need medical care and disability pay. Even under this extremely optimistic scenario, the total economic cost of the war exceeds $2 trillion. Under the circumstances, a $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and in all likelihood errs on the low side. Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States . It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq .’ (31)
- ‘In the ‘best case’ scenario, we project that the number of unique troops deployed to the conflict by 2017 will total 1.8 million.’ (36)
- ‘We estimate that over a period of fifteen years the military will require $250-$375 billion to rebuild the entire armed services.’ (44)
- ‘U.S. appropriation law provides that funding for wars should be separated from regular defense appropriations. Wars cost extra: the money we are spending on Iraq and Afghanistan is in addition to the regular defense budget.’ (45)
- ‘Defense spending has been rising rapidly as a share of GDP – from 3 percent in 2001 to 4.2 percent in FY 2008.’ (45)
- ‘Applications to West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy have fallen 10-20 percent from their prewar levels.’ (47)
- ‘To date, it is estimated that 1,001 U.S. contractors have been killed and more than 12,000 wounded.’ (51)
- ‘There is a simple message of this book, one that needs to be repeated over and over again: there is no free lunch, and there are no free wars.’ (55)
- ‘Those who have paid the highest price are the men and women who have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan .’ (60)
- ‘What I saw there…constantly in our intensive care units were these very badly injured young men and women with often only one extremity [left], severe burns, blinded – just severely, severely injured people. I’ve had soldiers breaking down in tears becoming very emotional as they would tell me some of the things they were seeing and what bothered them. I’ve heard so much of that come from the soldiers it’s taken a while for me to have a good night’s sleep. These were the severest injuries I’ve seen in my career.’ Gene Bolles, Chief of Neurosurgery, Landstuhl, Germany Regional Medical Center (67)
- ‘The VBA [Veterans Benefits Administration] now takes an average of six months to process an original claim, and an average of nearly two years to process an appeal. By contrast, the private sector health care/financial services industry processes over 25 billion claims a year, with 98 percent processed within sixty days of receiving the claim, including the time required for claims that are disputed.’ (74)
- ‘Of the 1.6 million U.S. servicemen and women so far deployed in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, 751,000 had been discharged by December 2007. All are potentially eligible for disability benefits, and by December 2007, 224,000 veterans had applied. Through mid-summer 2007, 90 percent of those applying for disability were approved.’ (77)
- ‘The VA has long prided itself on the excellence of care that it offers. In particular, VA hospitals and clinics are known to perform a heroic job in areas like rehabilitation. The medical staff are experienced in working with veterans and provide a sympathetic and supportive environment for the disabled. The VA also plays a major role in educating medical students: 107 of the 126 medical schools in the United States are formally affiliated with a veterans’ hospital.’ (81)
- ‘The signature wounds from the current wars will be (1) traumatic brain injury, (2) post-traumatic stress disorder, (3) amputations and (4) spinal cord injuries, and PTSD will be the most controversial and most expensive.’ Paul Sullivan, Program Director of Veterans of America (82)
- ‘Long-term studies of Vietnam veterans have also shown that PTSD leads to worse physical health throughout a veteran’s life. According to the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission, PTSD sufferers had the worst overall health scores in the veteran population, and one in three veterans diagnosed with PTSD was permanently incapable of working.’ (83)
- ‘Suicide rates in the Army for the past two years have been 17.3 soldiers per 100,000 and 19.9 per 100,000, respectively, the highest levels in sixteen years.’ (99)
- ‘More difficult to quantify is the price incurred by not keeping the Guard and Reservists at home. Many of these men and women normally work as critical ‘first responders’ in their local communities: in the fire department, the police department, and as emergency medical personnel. The ramifications of pulling them out of the communities they serve were illustrated dramatically during the Hurricane Katrina debacle, when 3,000 Louisiana National Guard members and 4,000 Mississippi Guard members were stationed in Iraq as the hurricane hit.’ (107)
- ‘We need to dispel the common myth that wars are good for the economy. This idea gained prominence in World War II. America (and much of the rest of the world) had been in a depression for years. There was a problem of insufficient demand. The economy’s potential supply – what it could produce, if everyone were fully employed – exceeded what people were willing to buy, and so the economy stagnated and unemployment was high. World War II created a demand for tanks and armaments; the economy ran at full steam; everyone who wanted a job could get one – and the war even demanded that those who could work two shifts do so. Today, no serious economist holds the view that war is good for the economy. The economist John Maynard Keynes taught us how, through lower interest rates and increased government spending, countries can ensure that the peacetime economy operates near or at full employment. But money spent on armaments is money poured down the drain: had it been spent on investment – whether on plants and equipment, infrastructure, research, health, or education – the economy’s productivity would have been increased and future output would have been greater. The question is not whether the economy has been weakened by the war. The question is only by how much. Where you can put a figure on them, the costs are immense. In our realistic-moderate scenario outlined in this chapter, they total more than a trillion dollars.’ (115)
- ‘Exactly how much the war increased prices cannot by gauged with precision, so we are putting forward two estimates: a conservative one that assumes only $5 per barrel of the price increase is due to the war; and a more realistic one that assumes the figure is $10. (We have discussed these estimates with oil industry experts; and although they disagree on the relative importance of different factors in the soaring prices, they have all agreed that, if anything, we have underestimated the role of the Iraq war.) Our conservative estimate assumes the duration of these higher oil prices to be seven years; the realistic-moderate estimate eight years.’ (117)
- ‘Just as the country aid a heavy price for Lyndon B. Johnson’s guns-and-butter policies during the Vietnam War long after the war was over – in the form of inflation in the 1970s – so it is paying a heavy price for America’s guns-and-butter policies today, and will be doing so for years to come.’ (127)
- ‘The Iraq war has exacerbated international tensions. The war, whatever its initial aims, has not increased stability and security in the Middle East. It has not reduced the threat of terrorism. On the contrary the threat seems to have increased, as evidenced by the number of recent terrorism incidents.’ (128)
- ‘Prior to the invasion, Iraq was a dictatorship and a miserable place to live for many of its people. Nonetheless, it had survived ten years of sanctions; it was a dysfunctional yet viable country. Five years after the United States occupied Iraq with the stated goal of bringing democracy to its people, the war has essentially ruined the country’s economy, society, and sovereignty.’ (132)
- ‘This is the largest migration of people in the Middle East since the creation of Israel in 1948.’ (133)
- ‘The majority of Iraqi children are not attending school.’ (133)
- ‘In September 2007, there were still 2,000 Iraqis arriving at the Syrian border every day. By late November 2007, despite the fact that the Iraqi government was offering to pay $700-$800 to refugees if they returned home, plus free bus and plane rides, the UNHCR pointed out that ‘large scale repatriation would only be possible when proper return conditions are in place – including material and legal support and physical safety.’ (133)
- ‘The United States knew that Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction only if its existing debts were forgiven. But most of these debts were held by other countries. America forgave the $2.2 billion ($4.1 including interest) owed to it by Iraq , then pressured other creditors to forgive a combined $29.7 billion in a deal struck on November 21, 2004.’ (134)
- ‘ Iraq has fewer than half the doctors it had at the beginning of the war.’ (136)
- ‘Cholera is widespread in parts of Africa, but it is rare elsewhere in the world. During 2006, there were fewer than 2,500 reported cases in the entire Asian continent (including India and China). In 2006, there were no cholera deaths in South AmericaNorth AmericaEurope, or Australia . Before the war, cholera was extremely rare in Iraq . Now it is a serious health crisis. A cholera outbreak was first detected in Kirkuk , northern Iraq , on August 14, 2007. It has spread to nine out of eighteen provinces across Iraq . Over 3,315 cases have been confirmed – more than in all of Asia in 2006.’ (137)
- ‘To fully understand [sic] the number of deaths that are attributable to the Iraq war, we need to look at what has happened to the total death rate in the country after the U.S. invasion. There are well-established methodologies for ascertaining changes in death rates, and a study conducted by researcher at Johns Hopkins University followed these methodologies; it looked at a scientifically chosen sample of villages, comparing death rates in those villages before the war and after. This sampling approach is the same methodology used in political opinion polls. A sample of 1,000 can predict voting outcomes with a high degree of reliability, often with a margin of error of 3 percent or less, for a country like the United States . The Johns Hopkins study used a large sample (over 1,849 Iraqi households and 12,801 members) and went to great lengths to make sure that the reported deaths had actually occurred. As of July 2006, the study put the increase in fatalities at 654,965. Since then, the pace of killing has increased. Assuming that the death rate remains at the level reported by the Hopkins study through March 2010, the total number of Iraqi deaths would exceed one million. As we noted earlier, we have no data for those seriously injured; but if we conservatively project that the numbers are injured are double those killed, then that tally would exceed two million.’ (138)
- ‘We noted earlier that Iraq ’s GDP, in real terms, is no higher than it was in 2003, in spite of a near quadrupling of oil prices.’ (140)
- ‘ America ’s policy of relying on contractors also unwittingly contributed to the failure of Iraqi recovery. U.S. procurement law requires the use of U.S. contractors, except in certain circumstances. In Iraq , much of the U.S. money spent on reconstruction went to high-priced American contractors rather than low-cost local Iraqi labor. California congressman Henry Waxman pointed out that non-Iraqi contractors charged $25 million to repaint twenty police stations – a job that the governor of Basra claims could have been done by local firms for $5 million.’ (143)
- ‘With more than one out of two Iraqi men out of work at some point after the invasion, Iraqis were begging for work. But American contractors focused on minimizing their labor costs, and imported workers from Nepal and other low-wage countries.’ (143)
- ‘No matter what assumptions one makes, it is hard to imagine a bleaker situation than the current one.’ (144)
- ‘According to the White House, there were an impressive-sounding forty-nine countries in the ‘Coalition’; yet America provided 84 percent of the troops itself and paid the costs of many of the foreign troops. Opposition to the war was so strong among the populations of many of these ‘allies’ that it has played a role in unseating the governments of Italy, Spain, Poland, and Australia. By 2007, the United States was providing 94 percent of the troops.’ (144-145)
- ‘Heroin production [in Afghanistan ] has been climbing every year since 2001.’ (146)
- ‘ Afghanistan ’s defense minister has said that he would need 200,000 troops (nearly three times the 70,000 troops that are planned) to ensure long-term stability in the country.’ (146-147)
- ‘Gordon Brown has announced that Britain will reduce its troop level to 2,500 by the spring of 2008, although it appears likely that this number will remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future.’ (153)
- ‘Until 2005, the United Kingdom was a net oil exporter.’ (154)
- ‘A study by the International Energy Agency, for instance, showed that the post-Iraq war increase in oil prices for a sample of thirteen African importing countries had the effect of lowering their incomes by 3 percent – more than offsetting all of the increase in foreign aid that they had received in recent years.’ (159)
- ‘The dream of the U.S. invaders was to create a stable, prosperous, and democratic Middle East. But America ’s intervention in Iraq is laying the foundations for precisely the opposite result.’ (159-160)
- ‘ America ’s standing in the world has never been lower. Anyone who has traveled abroad knows this. It is also confirmed by every poll and opinion survey. Of course, there have always been mixed feelings: envy mixed with admiration, respect for American democracy and its advocacy of human rights mixed with resentment towards its brashness and overconfidence. But the positives have outweighed the negatives in most countries. This was true not just of traditional allies, such as Great Britain (where 83 percent of the population had a favorable rating of the United States in 1999-2000) and Germany (78 percent), but even in Islamic countries, such as Indonesia (75 percent), Turkey (52 percent), and Morocco (77 percent).’ (160)
- ‘By 2007, favorable ratings had fallen to 9 percent in Turkey and 29 percent in Indonesia . That same year, confidence in President Vladimir Putin’s leadership exceeded that of President Bush in Canada Britain Germany , and France . In chapter 1, we noted that citizens of many countries saw America in Iraq as a greater threat to global peace than Iran . More remarkably, another recent Pew Survey showed that in every country surveyed, the U.S. presence in Iraq was viewed as a greater threat to world peace than North Korea . In short, all over the world, the United States was viewed as a greater danger than the countries President Bush included in his ‘axis of evil.’ ’ (161)
- ‘In 2007, Iraq ranked 178th out of 180 countries worldwide in terms of corruption. Only Somalia and Myanmar (formerly Burma ) was worse.’ (164)
- ‘ Iraq now has a religious government – whereas it had secular governments for eighty years prior to the U.S. ’ (165)
- ‘The Iraqi government plans to cut the number of items in the food ration from ten to five in January 2008 due to ‘insufficient funds and spiraling inflation,’ which could cause even more social unrest.’ (165)
- ‘The United States has established hundreds of military bases in Iraq since 2003. Many of these have been handed over to the Iraqis, but several are massive compounds that appear to be designed for long-term U.S. occupation. The largest include Al-Asad, the main supply base for troops in Al Anbar Province, about 120 miles west of Baghdad (housing about 17,000 troops and contractors); Al-Balad (also known as Camp Anaconda), which is the U.S. military’s main air transportation and supply hub (housing about 22,500 troops and several thousand contractors); Camp Taji )which has the largest shopping center in Iraq); and Al-Talil, in the south, a key stopping point for supply convoys from Kuwait. The Untied States has also been constructing a huge new embassy complex in Baghdad , which is more than six times the size of the UN complex in New York . These key U.S. bases are vast. Al-Balad/Anaconda is 4.5 miles wide and 3 miles long – requiring two bus routes. Al-Asad and Al-Talil are even bigger: nearly 20 square miles each. Even in the vicinity of Baghdad , the base complex Victory/Liberty is so big that it accommodates a 140-mile triathlon course. At the center of these bases are large and sophisticated military airfields, with double runways of 10,000-12,000 feet that can accommodate many aircraft, including fighters, drones, helicopters, and large transport places. The bases are largely self-sufficient in terms of utilities, including power, phone systems, heating/cooling, and hospital facilities protected by highly fortified perimeters. Whereas clean water, electricity, or quality medical care are in short supply in the rest of the country, the bases are islands of fully functioning amenities. They include sports facilities, department stores, fast-food restaurants (including a 24-hour Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and Baskin Robbins ice cream outlets), a Hertz Rent-a-Car, movie theaters, air conditioning, satellite Internet access, cable television, and international phone service.’ (167-168)
- ‘If we delay departure, we may not be able to choose the timing. We have pushed for democracy in Iraq . But, apart from the Kurdish north, there is overwhelming opposition to the presence of American forces. Overall, 78 percent of Iraqis oppose our presence. The opposition is as high as 97 percent for the population in Sunni areas and 83 percent in the Shia areas.’ (171)
- ‘If no rapid departure is ordered, the Iraq war will quickly become the new president’s war. At that point, the risk of escalating commitment will again set in. If thousands more Americans are killed and wounded, the new president will have to explain his (or her) mismanagement of the war. The war will sap the energy of the next administration.’ (176)
- ‘Most of our young soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen have performed with great sensitivity, showing empathy to the Iraqi and Afghan people and their terrible plight. Letters we have received show how much our troops want to improve the situation and how hard they are working to alleviate the suffering of local communities. The stories that circulate in the Iraqi media and by word of mouth are the exceptions: cases of U.S. soldiers detaining, interrogating, humiliating, and even torturing innocent Iraqis. But these stories have shaped Iraqi public opinion. Naturally, Iraqis are outraged and our enemies, such as al Qaeda, are clever at exploiting this outrage.’ (182)
- ‘The failure in Iraq , like the earlier failures in Vietnam , will have a chastening effect. Almost surely, America will be more loath to get involved in another venture of this kind; it will, or should, proceed more cautiously in getting involved in another war that could turn into a quagmire. But with all the precautions and caveats, the United States will, someday, go to war again.’ (185)
- ‘There are today no international institutions that can provide an adequate check against a major country determined to go to war, even if it is plainly contrary to international law.’ (186)
- ‘Reform 1: Wars should not be funded through ‘emergency’ supplementals
Wars are sometimes not expected. It is understandable that at least some of the initial spending may be unanticipated; but there is no reason why a war should be financed by ‘emergency’ appropriations for two years – let alone five…
Reform 2: War funding should be linked to strategy reviews…
Reform 3: The administration should create a comprehensive set of military accounts, which include the expenditures of the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor, as well as Social Security and health care benefits that arise from military service
This set of budget accounts should be transparent, and presented on both a cash and an accrual basis – costs not just for the next ten years, but for the next forty. The costs of war continue long after combat has ceased, but they are hidden by the government’s ‘cash’ accounting system and can remain so for a long time…
Reform 4: The Department of Defense should be required to present clean, auditable financial statements to Congress, for which the Secretary of Defense and the Chief Financial Officer are held personally accountable
Unbelievable as it seems, basic information about outlays – what has actually been spent on them – is not available. President Bush has not presented, on a regular basis, an accounting of how much the war in Iraq has cost us. It is only through hard work that we – and others – have been able to piece together the accounts. The DOD classifies more than $25 billion in its annual Operations and Maintenance Budget as ‘other services and miscellaneous contracts’ – a catch-all category which the Congressional Research Service criticizes as being ‘too vague to be useful.’… Congress should enact a mini-Sarbanes-Oxley [law that makes CEOs personally responsible for accounting figures] for government that holds cabinet officers accountable for financial matters in their departments.
Reform 5: The administration and the CBO should provide regular estimates of the micro- and macroeconomic costs of a military engagement…
Reform 6: The administration should be required to notify Congress of any procedural changes that might affect the normal bureaucratic checks and balances on the flow of information. The Freedom of Information Act (which enshrines the basic principles of citizens’ right to know what their government is doing) should be strengthened, with a more narrow carving out of exceptions, and with congressional oversight on these exceptions…
Reform 7: Overall, Congress should review the heavy reliance on contractors in wartime. In particular, the use of contractors for ‘security services’ should be limited, both in number and in duration, with a detailed justification provided for why the military itself cannot provide these services. Careful attention should be paid to hidden costs borne by the public, of the kind uncovered in this book, such as the payment for disability and death through government-provided insurance
The war in Iraq is proving to be a wake-up call regarding the role of contractors… The GAO and other government watchdogs have repeatedly documented cases of overbilling, overpayment, and outright profiteering during the Iraq war. This has increased the operational costs. And a large percentage of military contracts in this war have been awarded without full competition. Giant contractors have become adept at gaming the system. Once firms win big contracts – often using low-ball initial cost estimates – the government becomes so dependent on their services that it’s almost impossible to get rid of them…
Reform 8: The military should not be permitted to call upon the National Guard or the Reserves for more than one year, unless it can demonstrate that it is not feasible to increase the requisite size of the armed forces…
In the event National Guard or Reserve troops do serve more than one tour, the military would be required to pay double wages on a second tour of duty and triple on a third. Double pay should be given to any individual required involuntarily to extend his or her time in service beyond the originally contracted amount…
Reform 9: There should be a presumption that the costs of any conflict lasting more than one year should be borne by current taxpayers through the levying of a war surtax…
The war has been financed by debt. The combination of a volunteer army and a war financed by debt made it initially possible for most Americans to support the war, without ever asking: would they be willing to sacrifice their lives or the lives of their children to fight this war?...
Reform 10: Shift the burden of proof for eligibility (presumption) for health care benefits and disability from soldiers to government
We should think about veterans’ disability claims the same way we do taxes: the IRS automatically accepts nearly all tax filings from everyone, and then audits a subset to detect and deter fraud. For veterans, we should require that all returning servicemen and women have a complete medical examination on their discharge from the military, especially for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Any disabilities apparent at that time should automatically qualify the veteran for benefits…
Reform 11: Veteran’ health care should be viewed as an entitlement, not a matter of discretion
Reform 12: A Veterans Benefit Trust Fund should be set up and ‘locked,’ so that veterans health and disability entitlements are fully funded as obligations occur
Reform 13: National Guard and Reservists who fight overseas must be eligible for the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program and other all military benefits programs…
Guard and Reserve troops who have served overseas should be eligible for the same benefits as the military, such as low-cost loans for homes and education
Reform 14: A new office of advocacy should be established to represent the interests of veterans…
Reform 15: Simplify the disability benefits claims process, especially for veterans with PTSD…
Reform 16: Restore medical benefits to Priority Group 8 veterans…
Reform 17: Harmonize the transition from military to veteran status, so that it becomes a truly ‘seamless’ transition
Perhaps no issue has been as roundly criticized as the apparent inability of the DOD and VA to work together to provide a seamless transition from military to veteran status…
Reform 18: Increase education benefits for veterans
The G.I. Bill covered the full cost of a college education, including tuition, books, and a living stipend. Current education benefits (provided under the Montgomery G.I. Bill of 1984) are less generous. Today’s active duty forces can receive up to 75 percent of tuition costs at a public college or university, with no provision for books or living expenses. Moreover, in order to qualify, a service member must pay an upfront premium of $1,200 within the first year of military service; otherwise, he or she is not eligible to receive education benefits at all. There are eleven individual states which provide free tuition to home state veterans at their state colleges and universities. But for veterans from the other thirty-nine states, the cost of a good education may well be out of reach.’ (189-205)
- ‘Going to war is not to be undertaken lightly. It is an act that should be undertaken with greater sobriety, greater solemnity, greater care, and greater reserve than any other. Stripped of the relentless media and government fanfare, the nationalist flag-waving, the reckless bravado, war is about men and women brutally killing and maiming other men and women.’ (206)
- ‘ America passed its Freedom of Information Act after Nixon’s abuses came to light. Sweden recognized its citizens’ ‘right to know’ more than two hundred years ago.’ (286)

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