A latest study by a group of noted U.S. physicians predicted that healthcare for Iraq veterans could top 650 billion U.S. dollars, the Boston Globe reported Friday.
The study, titled "Shock and Awe Hits Home," marks the first attempt to estimate the total financial costs of "the wide-ranging traumatic mental and social effects of the Iraq war," according to the report.
The group, which shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, estimated that the long-term financial burden to care for a new generation of veterans will far outstrip the amount of money spent on combat operations in Iraq.
"Providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans will cost far more than is generally being acknowledged," according to the study, overseen by Dr Evan Kanter, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Washington.
The estimate was derived by analyzing the current costs of treating the debilitating health problems of troops in Iraq.
These problems include blast injuries to arms and legs from improvised explosive devices, the historically high instances of traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which the Veterans' Association believes affects at least one-third of soldiers serving there.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, at least 60,000 U.S. service members have been wounded or become mentally ill from their battlefield experiences.
The study came amid other new signs of the growing toll of the war on soldiers and their families.
Newly-released data show that thousands of members of the National Guard and Reserve who have returned from deployment have lost their jobs, health insurance, pensions, and other benefits despite federal laws protecting them from being penalized for leaving civilian employment for wartime service.