Following an investigation and the issuance of new guidelines, the US Army has awarded nearly 1,000 Purple Hearts to soldiers who sustained concussive injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, says an article by NPR.
In 2010, NPR reported that some Army commanders and physicians "belittled" concussions and commanders "refused to award the Purple Heart to many soldiers who got concussions in combat because they didn't consider these 'real' injuries."
In August 2011, the US Army released a statement encouraging active-duty and reserve-component soldiers, as well as veterans, who were denied Purple Heart awards for concussive or mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) to resubmit documentation for reconsideration of the medal. The statement says that since the Vietnam War, concussions and MTBIs as a direct result of an enemy action have warranted the award of the Purple Heart. "Nevertheless, field commanders have sometimes been unclear on what constituted concussion." With medical advances in the treatment and knowledge of concussion and MTBIs injuries, the Army says it now can "further identify the characteristics of the unseen wound and clarify guidance for entitlement to the Purple Heart."
The new guidelines are "dry and technical," says NPR. But the message is: If a soldier is diagnosed with a concussion from an enemy explosion and he or she received treatment, then he or she deserves the Purple Heart.
However, with studies suggesting that tens of thousands of troops sustaining concussions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it looks like only a small portion of them have applied for Purple Hearts under the new guidelines. "Veterans advocates say that maybe most of those soldiers never got an official diagnosis, or maybe they don't know about the new guidelines. Or maybe they know about the guidelines, but they don't have the will to go through the red tape," says NPR.
For information on programs that work collaboratively to provide and improve traumatic brain injury care for active duty military, veterans, and their eligible beneficiaries, visit APTA's Management of Wounded Warriors webpage.