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SSDI is not the only benefits program that carries long-term costs

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2013 | Social Security Disability

When we talk about long-term costs of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), we often think about 10-, 20- or maybe 50-year time frames. Sometimes, as when chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, discussed the state of the SSDI program in the year 2085, it is hard to really come to grips with a potential event 72 years in the future.

It is sometimes easier to look back and use that as our benchmark. Nonetheless, it was somewhat surprising to see the news story that reported this week there are still two individuals receiving $876 per year in governmental benefits because of their father’s Civil War service. The Civil War, recall, ended on April 9, 1865, almost exactly 148 years ago.

There are also 10 individuals whose benefits date to the Spanish-American War, at a cost of about $50,000 a year to the government. However, the real spending begins at $5 billion for WWII benefits, to $22 billion for the Vietnam War.

These are some of the costs that contribute to the federal deficit, and perhaps the largest single cost from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be the long-term disability and other survivorship benefits the government will be obligated to pay in the future. Moreover, if history is a guide, we could be paying survivors and their children of the war in Afghanistan for the next 15 decades.

The disability costs of the most recent wars will be enormous, as helicopter-enabled evacuations of injured soldiers and then jet transportation within hours of the injury to the most modern hospitals at military bases in Germany means many a soldier can be saved who would have perished during earlier conflicts.

But this also means there will be many grievously injured and permanently disabled soldiers who will eventually be discharged back to civilian life. And many will receive lifetime disability payments.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, “Civil War kin still getting benefits,” Los Angeles Times, Shan Li, March 20, 2013