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Pentagon: No Purple Heart for PTSD

Pentagon: No Purple Heart for PTSD

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, January 6, 2009

ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense officials have rejected the idea that troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder should be eligible for the Purple Heart.

"PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event; it is not a wound intentionally caused by the enemy from an ‘outside force or agent,’ but is a secondary effect caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event," said Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez.

The matter came up in May, when a military psychologist at Fort Bliss, Texas, told reporters he felt that making troops suffering from PTSD eligible for the Purple Heart would help remove the disorder’s stigma.

"These guys have paid at least a high — as high a price, some of them — as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with shrapnel wound, and what it does is it says this is the wound that isn’t worthy, and I say it is," John E. Fortunato said in May.

When a reporter asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Fortunato’s comments, Gates said the matter was "clearly something that needs to be looked at," prompting a review by the Defense Department’s Awards Advisory Group.

Based on the group’s findings, Dr. David Chu, undersecretary of personnel and readiness, has decided that PTSD does not meet the requirements for the Purple Heart, Lainez said on Monday.

"Historically, the Purple Heart has never been awarded for mental disorders or psychological conditions resulting from witnessing or experiencing traumatic combat events (e.g., combat stress reaction, shell-shock, combat stress fatigue, acute stress disorder, or PTSD)," she said.

The group also found that the requirement that the Purple Heart is awarded for wounds caused by "an outside force or agent" is a fair and objective standard for who should receive the award, but medical science cannot provide such a standard for troops suffering from PTSD, Lainez said.

"Several members could witness the same traumatic event, but only those who suffer from PTSD would receive the Purple Heart," she said.

The issue of whether troops suffering from PTSD should be eligible for the Purple Heart created a controversy after Stars and Stripes first wrote about the issue in May.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart, a veterans group, responded by saying the Purple Heart should only be awarded to troops who shed blood.

"I don’t think people should get the Purple Heart for almost getting wounded," said Joe Palagyi, the group’s national adjutant.

Many Stripes readers also opposed the idea.

"Every badge hunter and his brother will have this distinguished award in their sights," Army Capt. Matthew Nichols wrote in a May letter to the editor.

But Edward Stump, who said he served in Vietnam with the Marines from 1966 to 1967, wrote that the psychological wounds are just as real as physical ones.

"My wounds do not bleed but they have as many scars as a lot of other wounds," Stump wrote. "These wounds will never heal anymore than the scars, from any that are from combat-related fighting, will disappear."

Re: Pentagon: No Purple Heart for PTSD

I agree. PTSD is a combat related "CONDITION." It is not a combat "WOUND." No Purple Heart.

Re: Pentagon: No Purple Heart for PTSD

Your right Doc.

I think that they made the right decision on not allowing the PH award. I think that the awarding the Medal for therapeutic reasons isn't the answer for PTSD.

Having said that, I also must say that anything that Dr David Chu has a say so in should not be trusted. He is a Known Ax man for the DOD on Veterans Compensation and Military Retirement issues. He has favored every Tricare Cut and Increase Co-Pays for Retirees and has tried to cut Veterans Benefits for many years. Making a statement once that, He thinks increased Retirement Benefits and increased VA Compensation is, "Very Hurtful for the Men and Women currently on Active Duty"!

This guy could care less about the meaning of the Purple Heart. I think his agenda is the awarding of the Medal because Veterans awarded a Purple Heart have somewhat more Leverage when they apply for Benefits from the VA. I think that he thinks The Less Purple Hearts out there the Less Chance of VA Benefit awards will be approved.

In my opinion David Chu has always tried to drive a Spike between the Active Duty Troops and the Retired Military and Compensated Veterans.

I think the DOD decision here was right, But I think Chu 's intentions in this,, is a whole nuther ball game!

Re: Pentagon: No Purple Heart for PTSD

It's not going to happen nor should it.

Read this pdf entitled

DOD Responds to Cook about PTSD Concerns

or visit

scroll down right column to read