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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Disposable Soldiers

Chuck Luther

Joshua Kors writes about veterans affairs for the Huffington Post and is responsible for this incredible story.

Sergeant Chuck Luther went to an aid station for medical treatment but he didn't get any. Instead, they wanted him to say that he had a 'personality disorder' (PD) before going to Iraq and was therefore not eligible for disability or medical benefits. When he refused, they put him in an isolation room about the size of a walk-in wardrobe with a bed pan for a toilet. They stopped him from sleeping by turning bright lights on and blasting him with heavy metal music all through the night. When he rebelled, he was pinned down and injected with sleeping medication. After one month of this treatment he finally did sign, by then he would have signed anything. Once he signed the paper, he was immediately whisked back to Fort Hood and told what the consequences were - he was now a PD which meant no disability pay, no long-term medical care and because he didn't serve out his contract, he had to pay back a portion of his signing bonus which meant he now owed the Army $1,500. Sergeant Luther is just one of thousands of severely wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who face a lifetime without medical care.

It's hard to believe that American military doctors were prepared to lie by misdiagnosing their own men on purpose - wounded soldiers, returning from combat - by saying they had a pre-existing mental illness. As in the civilian world, if you have one, you are locked out of medical insurance.

When Joshua Kors broke the story of Jon Towns, a soldier awarded a Purple Heart when wounded in Iraq, some of the right people started to listen. Towns was also denied disability and medical benefits. His doctor said that his headaches and hearing loss were not caused by the 107-millimeter rocket that knocked him unconscious - it was really a pre-existing personality disorder. Only then did a few military doctors come forward to tell the truth. One doctor admitted he was distraught when he had to issue a PD for a soldier who had a massive chunk missing from his right leg.

Since 2001, more than 22,600 soldiers have been discharged with personality disorder, saving the military billions in disability and medical benefits. This week, Sergeant Luther's struggle is featured on the cover of The Nation. It's hard to believe that this is actually happening in the richest country on earth.