Friday, February 23, 2007


This (from the Army Times) is outrageous:

The Army is deliberately shortchanging troops on their disability retirement ratings to hold down costs, according to veterans' advocates, lawyers and service members.

"These people are being systematically underrated," said Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for Disabled American Veterans....

The numbers of people approved for permanent or temporary disability retirement in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have stayed relatively stable since 2001.

But in the Army -- in the midst of a war -- the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement has plunged by more than two-thirds, from 642 in 2001 to 209 in 2005, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. That decline has come even as the war in Iraq has intensified and the total number of soldiers wounded or injured there has soared above 15,000....

I don't even know why the numbers for the other service branches have remained flat. But the Army's numbers have gone down? That's crazy.

Here's an appalling example of what's going on:

In May 2003, Army Cpl. Richard Twohig was thrown from an armored personnel carrier in Iraq. The 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper landed on his head, said his lawyer, Mark Waple, of Fayetteville, N.C.

Twohig suffers headaches at least once a week that last up to 14 hours, as well as short-term memory loss, and is dependent on pain medication.

"This is well substantiated by his doctors -- Army medical doctors," Waple said.

But his physical evaluation board rated him only 10 percent disabled for another injury because he had no substantive proof the headaches were a result of the accident -- even though regulations call for evaluation boards to give troops the benefit of the doubt in such instances....

Twohig can't work because of the disabling headaches, and even if he receives VA benefits, his family has lost its medical insurance. And if a physical evaluation board rules that injuries are not related to service or were preexisting conditions, troops are not eligible for VA benefits, either.

We're told that the number of soldiers placed on permanent disability retirement is down -- but the number on temporary disability retirement is up. And why is that?

In 2005, Ellen Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness, told House lawmakers the reason for the comparatively large numbers of troops placed on temporary disability was actually to keep end strength up. A premature medical evaluation board decision, she said, "may negatively impact the individual's ability to continue serving."

These guys are massively disabled, and the Army wants to reserve the right to send them back into combat?

I found the second part of this week's Washington Post series on Walter Reed in some ways more heartbreaking and infuriating than the first part, because it had stories similar to this. I know Building 18 is undergoing repairs now, but fixing crumbling plaster is easy; reversing a deliberate attempt to screw people through bureaucracy is hard.

(Via Democratic Underground.)

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