US Is Still Paying for Civil War

Other wars cost $40B a year in compensation: report

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 19, 2013 10:29 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's been 148 years, and the US is still paying relatives of Civil War veterans every month. Two surviving children of veterans receive $876 annually, and while that may amount to a paltry sum, the AP's analysis of the continuing costs of US wars turns up much heftier figure: $40 billion each year, which goes to vets and survivors from the Spanish-American War (yes, of 1898), World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns, and the Afghanistan conflict. A breakdown of the numbers, and the fascinating tidbits that accompany them:

  • Vietnam War veterans and relatives receive some $22 billion per year, a figure that the AP points out is twice the FBI budget. That's in part because the US compensates vets with diabetes, based on an "uncertain link" to Agent Orange.

  • Meanwhile, the US is paying some $12 billion per year to Iraq, Afghanistan, and first Gulf war veterans and relatives. Some 45% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets have applied for compensation for injuries.
  • Among other big costs: World War II, which costs some $5 billion per year. And in what could be a bad sign for later conflicts, compensation hit its peak in 1991, some 46 years after the war's end.
  • WWI costs $20 million a year, which is doled out to 2,289 survivors. Interestingly, 47 of those are spouses under the age of 80, meaning they weren't born until years after the war ended. Many of those women were in their 20s and 30s when their aging spouses died in the 1960s and 1970s, and they've been drawing the monthly payments since.
Click through for the full report.

In this March 25, 2011 photo, a workman does repairs at the Framingham History Center behind a statue of a Union soldier in Framingham, Mass.
In this March 25, 2011 photo, a workman does repairs at the Framingham History Center behind a statue of a Union soldier in Framingham, Mass.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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