By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Today is Veterans Day, the federal holiday set aside to honor the men and women who’ve served in our military. While it is no less important than Memorial Day, when we remember and honor those who died in that service, Veterans Day presents us with a much more complicated task than simply saying thank you.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

According to the New York Times, we have about 23 million veterans in this country, and about four million of them receive benefits or services from the federal government. In 2011, veterans submitted more than 1.3 million claims for benefits, twice as many as a decade ago.

And the costs of meeting our obligation to our veterans is through the roof, tripling over the past ten years to an estimated $76 billion, with a 70-percent increase in that figure projected over the next decade.

War is an expensive enterprise, and so is dealing with the toll is takes on the men and women who wage it.

The Times reports that nearly a third of recent claims are from aging Vietnam veterans still dealing with physical and psychological wounds.

And the welcome news that our veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are surviving at a higher rate than in past wars brings with it added costs – according to the Times, Iraq and Afghanistan vets “are claiming on average nearly 10 disorders or injuries each, compared with 6 for Vietnam veterans and fewer than 4 for World War II veterans.”

This is all producing a huge backlog of claims and heartbreaking stories of disabled vets denied the care they deserve or otherwise caught up in horrendous red tape and bureaucratic failure.

But this is one governmental failure that cannot be addressed with talk of cuts.

No, we should not be an easy mark for fraudulent claims. But we must take care of the people who go to war on our behalf.

That is a sacred obligation on par with caring for helpless seniors and protecting children.

We have to find the money to clean up this mess. And that mandate ought to be topic #1 when we talk about military spending, or going to war again.

Let’s repair the damage suffered by our veterans before we ever risk creating more of the same.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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