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Army admits Gulf War medical records destroyed- letter ordering destruction found

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Feb. 11, 2011                  AZcentral
WTSP-TV, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –

A letter from the Department of the Army telling units to destroy their records after the end of Operation Desert Storm has made it more difficult for injured veterans to get the medical benefits they need.

The letter, never made public before now, says units were told to destroy their records because officials had no room to ship the paperwork back to the United States. The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to existing Army regulations.

“This could have been one, five, six, a couple of hundred or this could be thousands (of soldiers),” says Andrew Marshall, a Florida regional officer with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans group. “You don’t know.”

One solider trying to get help from the Veterans Administration for combat-related injuries says he has been turned down because his records are missing. He did not want to be identified.

He says he has all the medical records for the time he was in the states, but the records for everything that happened outside of the country are gone.

Marshall says the Army should have backups to the records destroyed in the Persian Gulf.

But the Army’s letter says several years after soldiers began putting in medical claims, it was discovered all records below the brigade level no longer existed.

Operation Desert Storm pushed Iraqi troops out of Kuwait but kept Saddam Hussein in power and lasted from Aug. 2, 1990, to the cease-fire April 11, 1991. In the conflict, 383 service members died; as of last year, 467 were reported injured. About 2.225 million troops served in the war, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Not just the after-action reports have been destroyed or are missing. According to some files, when some veterans come to the Veterans Administration to get help for service-related disabilities, records show they served, but medical records are missing.

That means when the vets make claims, they are turned down.

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Disposable Soldiers

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Luther’s case is not an isolated incident. In the past three years, The Nation has uncovered more than two dozen cases like his from bases across the country. All the soldiers were examined, deemed physically and psychologically fit, then welcomed into the military. All performed honorably before being wounded during service. None had a documented history of psychological problems. Yet after seeking treatment for their wounds, each soldier was diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, then discharged and denied benefits.

The Nation Joshua Kors

The mortar shell that wrecked Chuck Luther’s life exploded at the base of the guard tower. Luther heard the brief whistling, followed by a flash of fire, a plume of smoke and a deafening bang that shook the tower and threw him to the floor. The Army sergeant’s head slammed against the concrete, and he lay there in the Iraqi heat, his nose leaking clear fluid.

“I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at,” he says. “I was nauseous. My teeth hurt. My shoulder hurt. And my right ear was killing me.” Luther picked himself up and finished his shift, then took some ibuprofen to dull the pain. The sergeant was seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, in the volatile Sunni Triangle, twenty miles north of Baghdad. He was determined, he says, to complete his mission. But the short, muscular frame that had guided him to twenty-two honors–including three Army Achievement Medals and a Combat Action Badge–was basically broken. The shoulder pain persisted, and the hearing in his right ear, which evaporated on impact, never returned, replaced by the maddening hum of tinnitus.

Then came the headaches. “They’d start with a speckling in the corner of my vision, then grow worse and worse until finally the right eye would just shut down and go blank,” he says. “The left one felt like someone was stabbing me over and over in the eye.”

Doctors at Camp Taji’s aid station told Luther he was faking his symptoms. When he insisted he wasn’t, they presented a new diagnosis for his blindness: personality disorder.

“To be told that I was lying, that was a real smack in the face,” says Luther. “Then when they said ‘personality disorder,’ I was really confused. I didn’t understand how a problem with my personality could cause deafness or blindness or shoulder pain.”

For three years The Nation has been reporting on military doctors’ fraudulent use of personality disorder to discharge wounded soldiers [see Kors, “How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits,” April 9, 2007]. PD is a severe mental illness that emerges during childhood and is listed in military regulations as a pre-existing condition, not a result of combat. Thus those who are discharged with PD are denied a lifetime of disability benefits, which the military is required to provide to soldiers wounded during service. Soldiers discharged with PD are also denied long-term medical care. And they have to give back a slice of their re-enlistment bonus. That amount is often larger than the soldier’s final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.

According to figures from the Pentagon and a Harvard University study, the military is saving billions by discharging soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan with personality disorder.

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Written by laudyms

April 15, 2010 at 7:59 am

The Cost of Choosing Endless War

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Endless_War 2by Steven D
Sat Nov 7th, 2009   Booman Tribune 

Ft. Hood has exposed a terrible wound in the fabric of America, but that wound was there long before a lone gunman named Major Hasan decided to go postal on his fellow soldiers. Our ethical and moral values have been obliterated since September 11, 2001.

Racism is on the rise. Religious fundamentalism of the kind that justifies the slaughter of innocents and torture and inhumanity has reared its ugly head. Violence has become more and more the solution too many of us Americans employ to address our grievances and our anger. How many thousands have died as a result of the actions our government took in 2001 – 2009? How many more have suffered irreparable injuries to their bodies and minds? How much hatred has been engendered because our former President chose to make war the first and only option to any problem?

Yet we continue to fight those wars.

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