|The U.S. is 10 years removed from the start of the Iraq War, and its citizens still want to know what the final price tag on that conflict and ongoing operations in Afghanistan will be.
Maybe the government will let them know once it finally settles accounts -- from the Civil War.
The Associated Press took on a seemingly simple assignment: find out just how much America's wars have cost and what that will mean for Iraq and Afghanistan spending. It discovered that the U.S. is still paying restitution for conflicts that began in the 19th century. Lawmakers are not only unsurprised by this but insist that's how it should be.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says her father's disability payments from World War II helped feed her family and served as a reminder that the country needs to think about such costs before entering any such conflict.
That view has received some resistance from the other side of the aisle, however. Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson -- who co-chaired President Barack Obama's deficit committee in 2010 -- says lawmakers looking to tamp down federal debt shouldn't consider survivor benefits off-limits. He insists that recipients should receive such payments based solely on need and that "without question, I would affluence-test all of those people."
Perhaps he would start with two elderly children of Civil War veterans in North Carolina and Tennessee. Though born in the 1920s and 1930s, the two recipients in question were fathered by Civil War veterans in their 70s and 80s (not an uncommon occurrence, especially in the veterans community). Those the two offspring still receive $876 a year in benefits. Such survivor payouts usually end by the time children turn 18, but those born with disabilities rendering them incapable of caring for themselves are covered for life.
Such is the case with 10 surviving children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War. They're still awarded a combined $50,000 a year for their parents' service.
But that doesn't even come close to the compensation the U.S. pays out to Vietnam veterans, their families and families of those killed in action. That alone tops $22 billion a year, is greater than the FBI's annual budget and is nearly three times what the government pays in compensation to veterans and surviving families from World War I ($20 million), World War II ($5 billion) and the Korean War ($2.8 billion) each year.