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No, the Army Isn’t Refusing to Treat Combat Wounds as Combat Wounds

purple-heart-medal

In her report ”Fort Hood shooting victim denied benefits, despite Purple Heart decision,” Fox News’ Catherine Herridge is creating a scandal where none exists.

Fox News has learned as part of its ongoing investigation of the 2009 terrorist attack that the military, at least in one case, is still denying benefits for injuries sustained in the attack.

“I think it’s almost unheard of for someone to receive the Purple Heart but not have their injuries deemed combat-related,” Shawn Manning, who was seriously injured in the 2009 attack, told Fox News. “I know that was not what Congress intended to have happen, but it is what currently the Army has determined is going to happen.”

On Nov. 5, 2009, then-Staff Sgt. Manning was shot six times by Maj. Nidal Hasan. Two bullets are still in his body — one in his leg, the other in his back — and he suffers from PTSD.

The 2015 defense budget — known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA — included language that meant Fort Hood victims were eligible for the Purple Heart honor because the attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, and not workplace violence, as the Defense Department initially labeled it.

Manning submitted new paperwork so the Army would recognize his injuries were sustained in the line of duty. But his appeal was rejected by a physical evaluation board, apparently based on a narrow interpretation of the law.

“Section 571 of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act addresses both the awarding of the Purple Heart to service members killed or wounded in attacks inspired or motivated by foreign terrorist organizations and the Defense of Freedom Medal for those members and civilians killed or wounded during the Fort Hood attack on 5 November 20009,” the April 6 letter states.

“Nowhere in the act, however, does it offer combat benefits for service members permanently disabled in attacks inspired or motivated by foreign terrorist organizations. Although subsequent legislation and guidance may change, currently, the Board has no authority to award V1/V3 (service related) designation to soldiers disabled during the Fort Hood attack. “

My initial response to the report was the intended one: outrage at the thoughtless Army bureaucracy. Despite my continued ambivalence over whether Manning and others wounded by Hasan should have been awarded the Purple Heart, there’s zero question in my mind that their injuries are service-connected and that they’re entitled to medical care.

Thankfully, contra Herridge’s alarmist report, that is not remotely in question. Clicking through the linked memo from the physical evaluation board, all they are finding here is that the award of the Purple Heart doesn’t impact their previous finding that Manning does not merit a V1/V3 designation. I have no idea what those designations are, and neither, apparently, do a lot of people as a Google search for the terms return lots of pages of people asking what the terms mean and no answers. The memo refers to Army Regulation 635-40Physical Evaluation for Retention, Retirement, or Separation, but it doesn’t contain any references to V-codes.

Regardless, all the memo in question states is that Congress’ declaration that Manning is eligible for a medal awarded for combat-related wounds does not change his disability rating. Offhand, that strikes me as a perfectly sensible finding. Given that there’s no question that an active duty soldier shot by another soldier while on duty—or, indeed, while other than absent without leave or otherwise engaged in criminal activity—received his injuries in the line of duty, there’s no obvious reason why the Purple Heart changes anything.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    And it’s all Obama’s fault, Yadda Yadda Yadda.

    :))

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  2. Mu says:

    Oddly, listening to my father in law, it makes a huge difference in how the VA treats you. He was part of the agent orange injury group that fought for 30 years to get their disabilities recognized, and a lot of them settled quickly for the one carrot the Army offered, combat disabled status. Supposedly it gives you quicker appointments, better treatments and a lot of “respect” at the VA.

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  3. Guarneri says:

    So is he getting medical benefits or not? All the Purple Heart and V verbiage is just a distraction.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Guarneri: That’s not clear from the documentation. There’s a medical evaluation board that evaluates his injuries based on criteria and via procedures set forth in the regulations. He’s either found eligible or not. I’m just saying that, as you are, the Purple Heart is a distraction.

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  5. Andy says:

    A PEB is an administrative body that determines a military member’s fitness for military duty. If the member is deemed unfit for military duty, the PEB determines the extent of any disability which affects VA entitlements as well the the potential for disability pay. The decisions are based solely on the military member’s medical status and condition – whether or not the member was awarded a purple heart is irrelevant.

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  6. DrDaveT says:

    A lot of people are very confused (and their confusion is contagious) about the differences between “service connected”, “line of duty”, “combat related”, “hazardous duty”, etc.

    The other thing that most people don’t realize is that there is no link — none, nada, zip — between the determinations the Army makes about active-duty Army personnel, and any determinations that the Department of Veteran Affairs may make in the future, once that soldier is no longer a soldier but is now a veteran. The rules, criteria, processes, types of status, etc. are totally different at that point.

    In the present case, we’re talking about determinations by the Army, not by DVA. If I’m reading things right, a “V1” code is the same as a 10a, which is

    a. Incurred in the line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict which renders the Soldier unfit; or,
    b. Directly caused by an instrumentality of war, incurred during a period of war as defined by law (see below at 3.f).

    The definitions of “armed conflict” and “instrumentality of war” make it clear that they would not apply to the Ft. Hood incident.

    A “V3” code seems to be the same as a 10c:

    This designation is meant to cover an injury or sickness attributable to the special dangers (hazardous service) associated with armed conflict or preparation or training (simulations) for armed conflict. These are conditions that are unique to military service and not normally found in civilian life.

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  7. Ron Beasley says:

    It is FOX “News” after all who’s primary purpose is to generate Faux outrage among it’s knuckle dragging viewers.

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  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    It is FOX “News” after all who’s primary purpose is to generate Faux outrage among it’s knuckle dragging viewers.

    A brother-in-law, who neither served nor knows anyone who did serve, was going off about this latest Obama Administration “outrage.” There is no end to the “outrage” Fox “News” viewers experience on a daily basis.

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  9. de stijl says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Compare and contrast to the 2004 Republican Convention when delegates wore purple band-aids to mock Kerry’s Purple Hearts. Consider the year – 2004; gee, what else was happening in the world right then?

    I’m not a violent fella, but I wanted to personally punch each and every one of those gleefully scurrilous, pseudo-Patriotic flag-humpers directly in the larynx.

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  10. CB says:

    This thread needs more controversy. I demand troll wars!!

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  11. Moderate Mom says:

    @Ron Beasley: Catherine Herridge does straight news, not opinion, reporting on National Intelligence. She’s actually very good and would easily fit in at any of the major networks. Prior to working for Fox, she was ABC’s chief London correspondent. She also holds a degree from Harvard and a Masters in Journalism from Columbia. She is no right wing shill.

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  12. Tony W says:

    Darrell Issa needs to get on this right now!!!

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @CB:
    See what happens when you say things like that?
    @gradboxmuncher:

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  14. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Moderate Mom: if she’s not a right-wing shill, how is it that she’s so off on her reporting? Because she’s a sloppy reporter instead?

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  15. xobhcnum says:

    James its a shame that you feel the need to delete my comments.
    allahu akbar ~ nothing to see here…(and we’ll make damn sure of it)

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  16. xobhcnum says:

    @CB @gVOR08 …and well you probably didn’t see the other two comments JJ deleted

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