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Veteran disability costs more than doubled since 2000

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(USA TODAY) — Veteran disability costs have more than doubled since 2000, rising from $14.8 billion to $39.4 billion in 2011, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where troops served repeated tours, are key contributors to the cost of individual disability payouts, says Alison Hickey, VA undersecretary of benefits.

“I would point first and foremost to multiple deployments,” says Hickey, a retired Air Force brigadier general. “I would call it unprecedented demand.”

The 3.4 million men and women disabled during their service, many having served in World War II, are about 15% of the nation’s 22.2 million veterans.

The disabled veteran population has increased 45% since 2000 and is expected to grow with a new generation who seek compensation for injuries and are savvier than their elders about their VA rights, say Hickey and veterans advocates.

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