Just when you think the government can’t possibly cause more problems for veterans than they already have, the Pentagon gives them a surprise and sinks to an all new low.
In a little-noticed regulation change in March, the military’s definition of combat-related disabilities was narrowed, costing some injured veterans thousands of dollars in lost benefits — and triggering outrage from veterans’ advocacy groups.
The Pentagon said the change was consistent with Congress’ intent when it passed a “wounded warrior” law in January. Narrowing the combat-related definition was necessary to preserve the “special distinction for those who incur disabilities while participating in the risk of combat, in contrast with those injured otherwise,” William J. Carr, deputy undersecretary of Defense, wrote in a letter to the 1.3-million-member Disabled American Veterans.
The men and women need to be given difficult problems and rigorous training so that when they get into combat they are better prepared and equipped for the circumstances they will encounter. Under such hard training you expect to have some injuries, and those who are injured should be treated the same as the veterans wounded in combat, because that is reason for training.
Participation in life-threatening duties while not necessarily related to combat should be a no brainer when it comes to health coverage for those injuries – if these functions were not performed by military personnel who does the Pentagon think is suppose to do the work? Or should they think twice about taking the risk because, heaven forbid, if while performing their duties they get seriously injured the government isn’t going to pay for the surgeries that are required to correct the damage done. Could the government get any more heartless in their interpretation. This reminds me of the movie Article 99.
Marine Cpl. James Dixon was wounded twice in Iraq — by a roadside bomb and a land mine. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, a concussion, a dislocated hip and hearing loss. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Army Sgt. Lori Meshell shattered a hip and crushed her back and knees while diving for cover during a mortar attack in Iraq. She has undergone a hip replacement and knee reconstruction and needs at least three more surgeries.
In each case, the Pentagon ruled that their disabilities were not combat-related.
The Pentagon is actually arguing that the benefits for veterans wounded in combat should be greater than those injured while in other situations, one example would be in war simulations.
But veterans like Dixon and Meshell said their disabilities were a direct result of wounds suffered in combat.
Dixon said he was denied at least $16,000 in benefits before he fought the Pentagon and won a reversal of his noncombat-related designation.
“I was blown up twice in Iraq, and my injuries weren’t combat-related?” Dixon said. “It’s the most imbecile thing I’ve ever seen.”
Meshell, who is appealing her status, estimates she is losing at least $1,200 a month in benefits. Despite being injured in a combat zone during an enemy mortar attack, she said, her wounds would be considered combat-related only if she had been struck by shrapnel.
Meshell said the military had suggested that at least some of her disability was caused by preexisting joint deterioration. “Before I went over there, I was fine — I was perfectly healthy,” Meshell said. “This whole thing is causing me a lot of heartache.”
Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of Disabled American Veterans, has accused the Pentagon of narrowing the definition of combat-related disabilities to save money. He said the change would reduce payments for tens of thousands of veterans — those already wounded and those injured in the future.
The Military needs to face up to it’s responsibilities to these brave men and women, they owe them dearly for the sacrifices they have all made – at the very least they need to make sure all injured veterans receive the proper Health Care they deserve.