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Back in October 2008 I applied for a Purple Heart for sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI). This incident occurred on 12, Apr. 2004. I was less than ten feet away when an enemy 57mm rocket exploded, knocking me over a concrete barrier. I was briefly knocked unconscious, and when I came to I was disoriented and had a splitting headache.
The problem was, when I was hurt I didn't seek medical attention for almost two weeks. I didn't realize it at the time, but the symptoms of dizziness, sensitivity to light, and sleep disturbances were attibuted to the concussion I sustained. Although by the time I was seen, many of these symptoms had slowly begun to subside. The only thing the medics noted in my medical records was that I had scarring on my right eardrum, indicating that I most likely sustained a perforated eardrum from the acoustic trauma when the rocket exploded. Only this last summer, have I been diagonosed with a TBI through the VA.
My understanding is that any enemy inflicted wound, whether or not there is observable blood loss, merits the Purple Heart. (Invisible) brain injury caused by an enemy-inflicted concussion or blow, such as an IED explosion, mortar or rocket that renders the serviceperson even temporarily incapacitated is a wound even though brain trauma is not immediately visible to the naked eye.
IAW AR 600-8-22; 2–8. Purple Heart item g.(5) Examples of enemy-related injuries which clearly justify award of the Purple Heart are as follows: Concussion injuries caused as a result of enemy generated explosions.
To be honest, I never even thought about applying for this award, until I saw the head of the Polytrauma Clinic at the VA I go to. Based on his recommendation he said I should apply, as I supposedly met the criteria. I went ahead, and gathered all of my required documentation;
* Medical records of treatment in-country.
* Post-treatment records at Polytrauma Clinic at the VA.
* Records from PEB.
* Reconstructed narrative statement.
* A copy of the Brigade Serious Incident Report (SIR)
* Lay statements from fellow soldiers I served with, who witnessed the event.
Also, I was able to get a hold of my old supervisor, who served with me when we went to Iraq. I forwarded my award packet to my local Congressman, who endorsed it. He then forwarded it on to the Awards Branch-Dept. of the Army. In February, I received a letter from the Chief of the Awards Branch
stating I needed to provide more medical documentation in regards to my hearing loss and TBI. I obtained all my medical records in regards to my diagnosis and TBI treatment and a letter of endorsement form the Chief of the Polytrauma Clinic at the Seattle VA.
The last thing I'm waiting for before I send off my supporting documents is my final disability compensation claim which will most likely put me at 100%. (I'm already 80%.) I mainly need this vital document to help prove the hearing loss, since I just had a more recent audiology test performed. The results were that I am borderline deaf due to the acoustic trauma. Hopefully everything will work out for the better.
I won't lie to you, it is a long and arduous process. Make sure you have everything in writing. Stay proactive, and maintain plenty of copies for yourself. Good luck, if you are attempting to begin this long, difficult process. I hope my story will help assist those who are also eligible.
Thank you for sharing, the information you provided is very helpful. We are sorry the application process has been so difficult for you. We would like to see that change in order to make it easier to apply and be awarded. Please stay in touch and let us know when you receive your Purple Heart.
We need as much information as possible about the process in order to advocate for change. The general population assumes that soldiers are being regularly awarded and unfortunately, that is not the case.
Thank you for your service and best wishes!
Jayna, RN, MN, co-founder
So I received my Disability Compensation award letter a couple of weeks ago and my combined rating was upped from 80% to 90%. With this last bit of official documentation I finally forwarded my additional info to the US Army Awards Branch for reconsideration of my Purple Heart request. Everyone, keep your fingers crossed. We'll see what happens.
Thanks for the update! We hope to hear good news soon! Can you post the contact information for the US Army Awards Branch? I would like to post it on our website so others may contact them, as well. Also: What forms/format was required to send in an official request for award?
Thanks for your help!
Ask and ye shall receive!
US Army Awards Branch
US Air Force Awards Branch
Air Force veterans requesting a retroactive award of the Purple Heart must go through the Awards Office of Randolph Air Force Base. Unfortunately I had a difficult time trying to find a point of contact for this one.
US Coast Guard
U. S. Coast Guard
2100 2nd Street SW
Washington, DC 20593
Telephone Number: 202-267-1288
Send E-mail to:
CWO Micheal Lewisfirstname.lastname@example.org
Awards Branch Assistant:
Mr. Mike Gable 202-267-2249.
Last resort requests
Some veterans who have exhausted all available sources, often still feel that they should be awarded a Purple Heart, even if there are no records of the decoration. In such cases, service members may appeal directly to the military service department by way of a Defense Department Form 149, which requests an official change to military records. Usually, if the 149 is denied by the service department, there is nothing more a veteran can do and will not be awarded the Purple Heart. In some cases, however, veterans have been recommended for the Purple Heart, after the fact, by a United States Senator or Congressman. Such cases are treated as brand new award recommendations and the process for presenting the Purple Heart begins again with a review of records and interview of witnesses to the action in which a service member was wounded.
Hope this helps!
Well everyone, here's another update.
Just received another rejection letter from the Army HR Command dated Feb. 18, 2010. Once again they go on to explain the criteria for receiving the award. They also say the medical documentation doesn't show follow-on treatment, despite the fact that I have submitted numerous documentation time-and-again. Since this is my third rejection, I feel that I have exhausted all possible administrative avenues through the Army HR Command. Therefore, I am taking it up with the Army Review Boards Agency and let them decide my case. The online application can be found here: Army Review Board Agency Online Application
Wish me the best of luck! I'll keep you all posted!
Here's another update. I did my online submission through the Army Review Board Agency's website and submitted it electronically on Feb. 24, 2010. They received all of my supporting documentation on March 2, 2010. Now all I can do is sit back and wait for the outcome.
Coincidentally, my submission may be reviewed a bit differently after March 31, 2010. Congress asked the Defense Department back in October 2009 to review its procedures for awarding the Purple Heart to troops suffering from traumatic brain injury, whom some lawmakers feel are being overlooked by the awards process.
Troops suffering from concussions resulting from enemy explosions are eligible for the Purple Heart, but Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., didn't think the Defense Department was applying this standard to troops with TBI. He stated, "I've read the criteria over and over again for the Purple Heart," Pascrell said in September. "The regulations are fine. I take exception and take issue with how DOD has interpreted these regulations."
That's why he and Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., inserted language into the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act requiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates to report back to Congress by March 31.
Myself and many others whom have suffered a TBI believe it is a serious injury. It might not look like it because you're not missing a limb or you don't have a scar to show, but for the rest of your life, you are different and impaired in some way. For the rest of your life, you're going to have problems holding a job. For the rest of your life, you're going to have problems with your relationship with your family.
When it comes right down to it: an award of a Purple Heart is what truly says: 'I was wounded in action for my country.' A person with a TBI can talk the talk but that award is what backs it up. Stay tuned to see what happens on March 31st. I can't wait to hear what Secretary Gates has to say!
Thanks for sharing. I am sorry this process has been so difficult. Hang in there with this. Have you contacted your State Senator(s) to request endorsement of the award? I can write a letter to them on your behalf, if that would help. I will contact the Armed Forces Committee again to see if they have received a response from Secretary Gates...I will let you know what I hear back.
Please e-mail me if I can do anything to help. email@example.com
I have had a heck of a time getting my husband his purple heart. He was injured in 2006 and still doesn't have one and I am not sure if he ever will. He is 100% disabled through the VA for his TBI alone. Unfortunately his company was awful and did not get him the help he needed. They just kept saying that he wasn't trying hard enough. He has been told he does not have sufficient medical evidence by the AHRC. I know he saw the medical people after the blast but I have no clue how to get proof of that or whether they would even consider that medical treatment within theatre. That is the only treatment he got until he got home at the end of 2006 because no one would listen to him. He now has severe damage in parts of his brain and impairment across the rest of it. It makes me so angry that these guys have to fight so hard for something they deserve. I still to this day can not seem to get anyone to follow through on writing witness statements for him. There was no report filed on the incident because they didn't think anyone was hurt even though he was unconscious for awhile. The only thing that I am somewhat hopeful for is the fact that we met Secretary Gates a few weeks ago at a NMFA camp and I have his assistant's business card. I am still trying to calm down about the last letter we got from the AHRC a few days ago before I move forward and try yet again. I hope at some point they will realize that guys can have a TBI and not know it for awhile afterwards until their lives start falling apart. My husband forgets so many things, gets lost, and can't work. I hope that something will change soon.
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