Recently the Department of the Army clarified its criteria for awarding the Purple Heart to soldiers suffering from blast-related concussion wounds like traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
In a letter to AMVETS from the Army Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, the Department of the Army clarified its policy toward concussion injuries that did not result in loss-of-consciousness, which was often considered a defacto criterion for rating the Purple Heart.
In the letter, Mustion encourages soldiers who may have been previously denied the Purple Heart for the injury to resubmit their paperwork through the first general officer within their chain of command for review.
The policy is retroactive for concussion injuries sustained on the battlefield through contact with the enemy dating back to Sept. 11, 2001.
Mustion was clear to note that the memorandum was not a change in policy, but rather a clarification. The Marine Corps recently amended its policy to conform with other service standards, dropping the caveat for loss-of-consciousness and leaving discretion for awarding the Purple Heart to battlefield doctors who could diagnose the injuries properly.
AMVETS supported the Marine Corps adopting its new standard for the Purple Heart that was in line with the standard of the other uniformed services.
"As a veterans’ advocacy group, AMVETS’ primary concern is delivery of proper care for combat injuries," said AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop in response to the change in Marine Corps policy. "A Purple Heart automatically entitles combat-wounded veterans to receive requisite care from VA. In the case of TBI, the old Marine Corps policy may have actually created an unnecessary roadblock to care for veterans exposed to blast injuries. Like broken bones or internal bleeding, you can’t always necessarily see the physical damage caused by roadside bombs. This is particularly true with TBI, which is why AMVETS believes the Marine Corps is making the right decision by deferring to its doctors to make that call."
In reaction to the Army's clarification of its policy, AMVETS leaders encourage any soldier who suffered a blast injury in combat who was previously denied the Purple Heart to resubmit their paperwork in a timely manner.
"We applaud the Army's outreach on this critical issue," said Hotop. "No veteran who needs care for a blast-related injury should be allowed to slip through the cracks, and we're encouraged to see Army leadership taking the necessary steps to ensure their soldiers receive the care that they need."
Proper identification and treatment for polytraumatic blast injuries like TBI is one of AMVETS top legislative priorities for 2011, as outlined in the 2011 Legislative Priorities book. American Veteran will continue to follow this issue closely. Check back regularly for updates.
(Image: Letter from the Army Adjutant General to AMVETS clarifying the Army's policy for awarding the Purple Heart for concussion injuries.)