Ten years after the launch of the Iraq War, a number of critics and analysts have been pointing to war’s extravagant financial cost—to say nothing of its toll on human lives. But a surprising report shows that nearly 150 years after the Civil War's conclusion, the U.S. government is still paying relatives of veterans.
An analysis from the Associated Press found that more than $40 billion annually is being spent on veterans and survivors of wars dating from the Spanish-American War of 1898 up through the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
There are only two recipients of Civil War benefits, both children of veterans and receiving $876 per year.
Although their names are being kept private, the AP estimates that they were both born between 1920 and 1930, meaning their parents were themselves upward of 80 when their children were born.
Juanita Tudor Lowrey, 86, received Civil War benefits tied to her late father from the age of 2 until her 18th birthday.
Military veteran and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson said the government should consider means testing veterans as the burden on the federal debt continues to grow.
"Without question, I would affluence-test all of those people," Simpson told the AP.
Simpson co-chaired President Barack Obama’s deficit reduction committee in 2010, which offered a number of recommendations for reducing the federal budget defecit.
And while it would be natural to assume the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the most costly, the payments to Vietnam War veterans nearly double the cost of our two current wars, $22 billion and $12 billion, respectively.
Simpson said a number of new ailments added to veterans coverage, including heart disease, has been driving up costs.
"That has been terribly abused," he said.
Meanwhile, World War II still costs the federal government about $5 billion a year. And the Korean War still costs taxpayers about $2.8 billion annually.
Amazingly, $20 million is still being paid each year to 2,289 family members of veterans from World War I, many of whom are over 100. But perhaps even stranger, 47 benefit recipients were not even born until after the war ended.