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How Many Vets Have Been “Wounded” in Iraq and Afghanistan?

During the House debate over the Kucinich resolution calling for a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Rep. Bob Filner, chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, pointed out that hundreds of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have gone to the VA for service-related injuries.

The video of Filner’s statement is here.

A March 13 fact sheet from Veterans for Common Sense gives a more precise figure: they reported that 508,152 Iraq and Afghanistan veteran patients had been treated at the VA.  This figure is from VA documents obtained by VCS under FOIA, and appears to be current through the end of FY 2009, i.e. through September 30, 2009.  The VCS fact sheet is here.

Note that these figures are very different from the official DoD statistics for “wounded” at, often cited in press reports.  The total U.S. wounded figure given there for “Operation Enduring Freedom,” which is mainly but not exclusively Afghanistan, is 5,188 through March 2010, while the total US wounded figure for “Operation Iraqi Freedom” through March 2010 is 31,716.  That suggests the total U.S. “wounded” from the two wars is 36,904, about 7.3% of the VA figure, which covers a slightly shorter period.

If for comparison to the VA figures, we just take the figures through September 30, 2009, that gives 31,513 wounded for Iraq, 4,174 wounded for OEF, for a total of 35,687 wounded.  35687 is 7.02% of the VA figure of 508,152.  So it appears that the DoD “wounded” figure is about 7% of the figure of vets who have been treated at the VA.

Of course the two figures are measuring something different.  But it does suggest that using the DoD figure to capture “wounded” in press reports gives a misleadingly small sense to the reader.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily impinge on using the DoD figures to establish trends, by comparing time periods.  So for example this AP story pointed out that the number of wounded in Afghanistan has more than tripled in 2010 compared to the same period last year, using the DoD figures.

The DoD/ wounded figures for OEF (mainly Afghanistan) are here.

The DoD/ wounded figures for Iraq are here.

Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy.  Naiman also edits the daily Just Foreign Policy news summary and blogs at the Web site of Just Foreign Policy.  This article was first published in the Just Foreign Policy blog on 31 March 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

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