Economic Burden


Lead Author(s): 

Lt Michelle M Gosselin, MD, Primary
Lt Col Christopher T. LeBrun, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I Watkins-Castillo, PhD

The true cost of military injuries is difficult to define due to the complexity of injuries and the long-lasting implications on the service member. In addition to actual treatment costs of the index injuries, we must take into account the added financial burden associated with time away from duty, long-term care for severely injured, and the effects of war trauma. In recent years (2012 to 2017), injuries and poisoning events cost a morbidity burden of 40,000 to 68,000 bed days among active category Armed Forces personnel. (Reference Table 5F.1.4.3 PDF CSV)

The Army has estimated the cost of Basic Combat Training (BCT) injuries to be $22 million annually for treatment of the 40% of men and 61% of women who sustain BCT-related injuries annually. The most common types of injuries were sprains, strains, joint pain, and back pain.1

Injury costs associated with the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will be staggering for decades to come. One out of every two veterans from these two conflicts has already applied for permanent disability benefits. Higher survival rates for amputees and other catastrophic injuries that require life-long care further add to the economic burden of these disability costs associated with musculoskeletal injuries. The present value of the expected total medical care for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) veterans already committed to be delivered over the next forty years is projected to be $288 billion.2


  • 1. Bulzacchelli MT, Sulsky SI, Zhu L, et. al. The cost of basic combat training injuries in the US Army: Injury-related medical care and risk factors. Military Performance Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA. March 2017: p 5.  Accessed January 19, 2019.
  • 2. Bilmes LJ. The financial legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan: how wartime spending decisions will constrain future national security budgets. Harvard Kennedy School. March 2013. RWP13-006_Blimes.pdf. Accessed January 19, 2019.


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