Special Report, Part 2: 'The Uncounted Cost'

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This is the second part of our two-part series, "The Uncounted Cost."

As we learned in part one, nearly 50,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been wounded in action.

7 News reporter Caitlin Cissne tells us what it will take to care for these veterans in the future.


There are many reasons a person chooses to serve in the military.

For amputee Jessie Fletcher, it came down to a sense of duty.

"It was a duty thing," he said. "I don't have any regrets for any of that."

Whatever the reason, veterans like Fletcher will require care for years to come.

Ramsey Sulayman from the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says it's our duty to be sure that happens.

"When you talk about Iraq and Afghanistan and people talk about the cost of war, it doesn't just end when people get off the battlefield and come home," he said, "and it doesn't end when people leave active military service or the reserves."

In a Congressional hearing last year, an analyst testified that the cost of caring for those veterans will nearly triple in the next decade. 

That means it could cost between $40 billion and $55 billion to care for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan between 2011 and 2020.

With talks of budget cuts and sequestration, Sulayman says it's important to keep the pressure on Congress to ensure those needs are met.

"People still look at it and say what can we cut, what can we cut and we think it's important to honor that contract that America has made with its veterans that once you've gone to fight, if something happens to you, you and your family will be taken care of."

Sulayman says that includes keeping up funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It's a big price tag, but Fletcher says for veterans, it's not all take and no give.

He says you can honor veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan by remembering they still have a lot to give.

"What we want to do for our communities is huge," Fletcher said.

"It's going to be real interesting to see how the veterans of my generation are going to react to going back to their hometowns, their communities and the things that they're going to do -- it's big."

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are some of the hardest hit by the struggling economy.

The most recent unemployment numbers show a  9.7 percent unemployment rate for post 9/11 vets.

The situation is believed to be even worse for disabled veterans, yet another uncounted cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Friday, August 1, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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