U.S. Reconfigures The Way Casualty Totals Are Given

February 2nd, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Reconfigures The Way Casualty Totals Are Given

New York Times
February 2, 2007
Pg. 17

By Denise Grady
Statistics on a Pentagon Web site have been reorganized in a way that lowers the published totals of American nonfatal casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of force health protection and readiness at the Defense Department, said the previous method of tallying casualties was misleading and might have made injuries and combat wounds seem worse and more numerous than they really were.
The old method lumped many problems under the label “casualties,” including illnesses, minor injuries and injuries from accidents, as well as wounds sustained in combat. But the public may assume that every casualty is a war wound, Dr. Kilpatrick said, so the site was changed to avoid misunderstandings.
On Monday, the bottom line of the Defense Department’s Web page on casualties in Iraq listed a total of 47,657 “nonmortal casualties.”
By Tuesday, the same page no longer showed a total for nonmortal casualties. The bottom line is now “total — medical air transported,” and the figure is 31,493.
The new total excludes 16,164 troops who were wounded but did not require medical air transport because their injuries were minor. The total does include combat wounds, nonhostile injuries and diseases serious enough for medical transport.
Half the nonhostile injuries are from vehicle accidents, and a third are sports injuries from activities like basketball, Dr. Kilpatrick said. About 50 disease categories — including mental problems and gastrointestinal illnesses — have led to medical evacuations. Dr. Kilpatrick said that 85 percent of those who were flown out for medical reasons eventually returned to duty.
“It may be a few weeks, or it may be a year or more,” he said.
Concern at the Pentagon about public perceptions of the wounded increased last month after Linda Bilmes, a Harvard professor, published an opinion article in The Los Angeles Times mentioning 50,508 “nonmortal woundings” in Iraq and Afghanistan. That number came from a Web page posted by public affairs employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But officials from both agencies said that figure had been posted by mistake, lumping combat and noncombat injuries as well as illnesses and labeling them all “woundings” instead of casualties.
“If public affairs people at the V.A. misunderstood, we thought the public would misunderstand it, too,” Dr. Kilpatrick said.
Both Web sites were changed.
Paul Sullivan, director of research and analysis of Veterans for America, said the changes actually meant the Pentagon was trying to conceal the rising toll of injuries and illness.
Mr. Sullivan, formerly a project manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs, also said that the department was not prepared to provide the health care that returning veterans would need for mental and physical disabilities.

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