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U.S. still paying survivor benefits to children of Civil War vets

March 19, 2013|By Shan Li
  • The graves of Confederate soldiers in Charleston, S.C. Two children of Civil War veterans are still receiving survivor benefits.
The graves of Confederate soldiers in Charleston, S.C. Two children of… (Library of Congress / PBS )

The U.S. government is paying billions to war veterans and their families, including monthly payments to the children of Civil War veterans.

More than $40 billion annually is being paid out to soldiers and survivors of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War in 1898, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

Two children of Civil War veterans -- one in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina -- are each receiving $876 a year. Another 10 are getting benefits, averaging about $5,000 a year, connected to the 1898 Spanish-American War.

The spouses of soldiers who die in wars can qualify for lifetime benefits, while children who are under 18 can also receive payments. Kids who are disabled before the age of 18 may also get those benefits extended through their entire life.

The government is still paying survivors of World War I about $20 million a year, which is dwarfed by the $5 billion per year paid out to World War II veterans and their families, the AP reported.

The Vietnam War payments cost about $22 billion a year. Those payments include compensation for ailments such as diabetes that may be linked to Agent Orange, the defoliant used by the U.S. military as part of its chemical warfare program.

The more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with the Gulf War, are costing about $12 billion a year in payments to veterans and surviving family members, the AP said. Excluding medical expenses, these payments have totaled more than $50 billion since 2003, the start of the U.S. and coalition invasion of Iraq.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) told the AP that such costs, which can last more than a century after a conflict is over, should serve as a reminder of the heavy toll of wars.

"When we decide to go to war, we have to consciously be also thinking about the cost," she said.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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