Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Truth in numbers

An economist at Harvard wrote a paper estimating the long term health care cost of veterans resulting from the Iraq war. Harvard is touting the research up, featuring it on their website.

The pentegon doesn't like her research. They have a dispute about her baseline numbers of the number of wounded and injured as a result of the war. InsideHigherEd has a somewhat slanted story about the dispute.

It seems she got her numbers from a VA website that gave the total injuries, including wounded, injured from accidents, and hurt from illness. The Pentagon thinks she should only attribute the wounded to the war.

Probably they're both using the wrong numbers. Just normal training exercises back home, with no war, would result in injuries. So some of the injuries should not be attributed to the war, they aren't extra injuries. The pentagon is right about that.

The Pentagon is wrong that none should be counted.

Injuries to National Guard should be counted. Or at least most of them, the Guard wouldn't have many training injuries if they weren't mobilized.

The research should have included an estimate of peacetime injuries and those should be deducted from the total injuries before attribution to war causes.

Both sides of the debate are at least slightly wrong, and I think they're both over reacting.

UPDATE: I hadn't located the article itself when I wrote the above. I've since looked at it. Although I havn't read it closely it looks like she probgably did adjust the numbers somewhat as I suggested above.

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