Through September 2011, about 740,000 veterans from overseas contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had been treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). That number is slightly more than half of all recent veterans eligible for care by VHA.
VHA spent about $2 billion in fiscal year 2010 to provide medical care to all recent combat veterans.
Using data for recent veterans treated by VHA from 2004 to 2009, CBO found that:
|Average Costs for
First Year of Treatment
|With PTSD and TBI||$13,800|
|Recent Veterans with Neither Condition||$2,400|
Those amounts do not include initial care provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) or care by other providers outside of VHA. For comparison, VHA estimates that the average cost of care in 2011 for veterans of all eras will be $9,100.
VHA’s average costs for patients were highest during the first year of their care and declined and then stabilized in subsequent years. In the data CBO analyzed, VHA’s average costs for patients with TBI (including those with both TBI and PTSD) appear to increase in the third and fourth years. That result is probably generated by a policy change (occurring in the middle of the period CBO analyzed) related to screening for mild TBI. Without that change, costs for those patients would probably also have been highest during the first year of care and declined and stabilized thereafter.
Those results exclude about 500 patients with severe multiple injuries that received treatment in VHA's polytrauma centers; costs for those patients were significantly higher.
CBO’s study examines data from veterans who sought treatment at VHA. Those data may not be representative of the overall population of recent veterans. A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the prevalence of PTSD and TBI within the population that deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other researchers have estimated that: