About Injured veterans engaged in new combat
|November 25th, 2008||#1|
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Injured veterans engaged in new combat info
In a little-noticed regulation change, the Pentagon's definition of combat-related disabilities is narrowed, costing some wounded veterans thousands of dollars in lost benefits.
important]By David Zucchino
November 25, 2008
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.
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 group, which has called the policy revision a "shocking level of disrespect for those who stood in harm's way," is lobbying to have the change rescinded.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon's "more conservative definition" limited benefits for some veterans. "That was not our intent," Levin said in a statement.
He added: "When the disability is the same, the impact on the service member should be the same no matter whether the disability was incurred while training for combat at Ft. Hood or participating in actual combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Pentagon officials argue that benefits should be greater for veterans wounded in combat than for "members with disabilities incurred in other situations (e.g., simulation of war, instrumentality of war, or participation in hazardous duties, not related to combat)," Carr wrote.
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.
"This is going to hurt a lot of people," Baker said. "It's one of those things that when you first look at it, you think: 'Wow. How can this be?' "
In a letter to members of Congress, the Disabled American Veterans accused the Pentagon of "mutilating" the statutory definitions of combat-related disabilities as part of a "deliberate manipulation of the law."
The January legislation was aimed at allowing troops wounded in combat and combat-related operations to collect disability severance from the military and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Disability severance is based on past service. Disability compensation is based on future loss of earning potential. Previously, veterans with combat-related disabilities received reduced monthly VA compensation until their severance money was recouped. That is still the case for those whose injuries are not deemed combat-related.
Years ago, Congress adopted a detailed definition of combat-related disabilities. It included such criteria as hazardous service, conditions simulating war and disability caused by an "instrumentality of war." Those criteria were not altered in the January legislation.
The Pentagon, in establishing an internal policy based on the legislation, in March unlawfully stripped those criteria from the legislation, the Disabled American Veterans said.
"We do not view this as an oversight," Baker testified before Congress in June. "We view this as an intentional effort to conserve monetary resources at the expense of disabled veterans."
The Pentagon changes focused on "tip of the spear" fighters, or those "in the line of duty in a combat zone," said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. They comprise "a very special, yet limited, subset of those who matriculate through the Disability Evaluation System," Lainez wrote in an e-mail response to a request for comment.
In many cases, veterans say, they are not told why their disabilities are not considered combat-related.
Dixon said he did not realize he had been put in a noncombat-related category until he began questioning his disability payments. It took more than six months of phone calls, letters and appeals -- plus help from the Disabled American Veterans and a member of Congress -- to overturn his designation.
Navigating the Pentagon's bureaucracy was made more difficult because Dixon's brain injury resulted in short-term memory loss. He had to write everything down in notebooks and calendars.
"It was a nightmare," Dixon said. "Most veterans don't know how the system works, or how to fight it. They don't realize all the obstacles they put in your way to keep you from getting what you deserve."
Meshell said the military disability system was so complex that few veterans were equipped to navigate it.
"I'm a college graduate. I'm not a dumb person. But honestly, I can't begin to explain some of this stuff," she said.
After five years of active duty, a combat tour in Iraq and 12 years in the National Guard and Reserves, she thinks she deserves the full disability benefits authorized by Congress for veterans injured in combat.
"I earned them," she said. "I went to Iraq. I was in combat. I got injured."
I was visiting another site and found this, is it accurate?
We are more often treacherous through weakness than through calculation. ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld
|November 26th, 2008||#3|
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and the military wonders why they are having problems recruiting...go figure.
Its getting so that that the men are becoming like the equipment they use...that is to say disposable.
"My center is giving way, my right is in retreat situation excellent. I shall attack." -Foch
I am from NYC. I fly a French flag because I work in Paris.
|November 26th, 2008||#4|
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The whole thing is disgusting to me... ANY mistreatment of those who served for our country, especially those who were WOUNDED in the service of our country, is despicable. And to think that it's by the very government they were protecting... It's just unfathomable... Hopefully, Obama will be able to do a little something about this during his tenure as POTUS.
|November 26th, 2008||#6|
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|November 26th, 2008||#7|
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But try explaining that to those they leaft behind or that have to go through life crippled.
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
Sir Winston Churchill
|November 26th, 2008||#8|
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This isn't really anything new. Veterans organizations like the VFW and American Legion have been constantly dealing with this issue since before the Department of Veterans Affairs was formed. Back when it was the Veterans Bureau it took my grandmother ten years to get her widows pension . She received the pension in 1939 ten years after his death in 1929 from and industrial accident. His death in the accident was related to injuries he received in 1918 at the front. Date of injury was November 4th or 5th 1918.
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I like the format that is sent weekly because it gives a paragraph length description of what is happening and then a link to more in depth information. Some other news letters I get are one sentence items that require you to expand it find out if you are interested in the subject.
You might be aware that the current backlog for processing VA claims is like 100,000.
Like I put in letters I recently sent to my Congressman and Senators, if you don't want to support veterans then Stop voting to make them!(Veterans)