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.
And while this may make your blood boil, and it may look to you like the Bush administration is doing their best to screw vets out of money and care, what you fail to realize is that most everyone in the Bush administration has a yellow “We Support Our Troops” sticker on their car, so there. The soldiers understand what is happening to them:
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.”
This is utter bullshit. Notwithstanding the fact that they should get every penny they deserve, failing to pay these folks will hide the true cost of war. These people are injured and scarred for life because of our desire to wage pre-emptive war. Failing to account for the costs of our actions will just make it easier to engage in this sort of stupidity again. So quit screwing our troops, Pentagon. Quit screwing our troops, Bush appointees. These guys were hurt, in combat, and your post hoc redefining doesn’t change it.
I should probably also add, this sort of thing is nothing new. The brass and the bean-counters have always been screwing our troops this way. For example, remember Gulf War Syndrome, which was widely labeled as bullshit, and that the Pentagon and others spent years denying so they did not have to pay benefits? Guess what? It exists. It is real:
A congressionally mandated scientific panel has concluded that Gulf War syndrome is real and afflicts nearly one-quarter of the 700,000 U.S. troops who served in the 1991 conflict, according to a report released Monday.
The report broke with most earlier studies by concluding that two chemical exposures were direct causes of the disorder: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, given to troops to protect against nerve gas, and pesticides that were used — and often overused — to protect against sand flies and other pests.
Just stop the bullshit and give these guys what they are due.