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A Different Perspective

Logan Murphy at Crooks and Liars reports on it as Pentagon Leaves 20,000 Soldiers With Brain Injuries Off Official Wounded List, but that isn’t the story from a vet’s perspective.

First off, the Pentagon may not be trying to hide anything. The military has a peculiar, to those not in the military, way of accounting for injury, illness and death: it is by major command area. Any incident is assigned to the accounting area of the medical facility that reports the incident, not the area where it happened, and this is always the way the military has done it.

The people who report on the military should be aware of this, and adjust things accordingly, but many of those assigned to the Pentagon can’t tell a tank from a Humvee or an F-22 from a Spad. They should have been monitoring casualty figures from European Command, the destination for med-evacs from Iraq, for death and injury levels, because after wheels up on the med-evac aircraft that’s where they will show up, not in the Iraq numbers.

For the people affected, the important thing is that their injuries are identified as combat-related, not just for the Purple Heart, but because that changes their benefits profiles with the VA and the military. They weren’t just injured while in service, or even while on duty, but in combat. These are subtle differences in terminology that make very large differences in benefits. Where their injuries were reported isn’t nearly as important to the individual as what was reported. Civilians can’t understand the difference it makes for a service member injured in an auto accident, whether that member was in their private vehicle, in a military vehicle, or in a military vehicle that was blown off the road by an IED.

It should be remembered that early on under Rumsfeld, the military wasn’t awarding Purple Hearts to some of the people injured in combat and Congress got involved. I had a feeling at the time that Rummy was setting these people up to deny benefits that were due to them. This may still be part of the system that Rumsfeld put in place to “keep costs down,” including excluding veterans organizations, like the Disabled American Veterans, from visiting military hospitals and explaining their rights and benefits to those injured.