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The federal government won’t say who they are, but in 2013 two people still get government payments for the U.S. Civil War, which ended nearly 150 years ago. No government official made that information public. It only emerged as the result of an investigation of federal payment records by the Associated Press, which also found that 10 people are still receiving federal government benefits for the Spanish-American War, which ended more than 100 years ago, at a cost of some $50,000 a year.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I, which the United States did not join until 1917, a year before the conflict ended. But AP sleuths found that federal government is still paying 2,289 people linked to that war, at a cost of some $20 million a year. World War I was the “war to end all wars,” but of course it didn’t.
In 1939, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, then allies under the Nazi-Soviet Pact, invaded Poland starting World War II. The United States joined the conflict in December 1941, after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. The war ended in 1945, nearly 70 years ago, but the AP found that the federal government is still paying out $5 billion a year for that conflict, and that the costs peaked in 1991.
The Korean War never officially ended but the shooting stopped more than 60 years ago. The federal government, the AP found, is still paying out some $2.8 billion per year related to that conflict. The Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago but the federal government is paying out some $22 billion annually for that conflict.
The AP found that wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf are costing $12 billion for those who left service or family members of those who died. Post-service costs exceed $50 billion since 2003 “and are poised to grow for many years to come,” according the AP.
Former senator Alan Simpson wants to “affluence test” recipients. Sen. Patty Murray says when we go to war we have to consider “the cost.” True, but continuing payments for wars that ended more than a century ago is another reminder that federal spending remains out of control.