How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits
Awhile back I argued that the military has in many ways become Bush's battered wife who smiles in public, enables his behavior but is getting the shit kicked out of her behind closed doors. The above story from Josh Kors in The Nation, which I heard this morning on Here and Now, details how the military has found a loophole that keeps it from having to pay disability benefits to soldiers wounded while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the Bush Administration is beating his wife yet again.
Yup, you read it right. They are just flat out lying to save money. And it gets worse. Kors goes on to explain that if the soldier hasn't served out the full extent of the time he/she signed up for -- you know, having been discharged because he/she is no longer useful to the military -- the soldier then has to pay back a portion of his/her enlistment bonus. So, they come home disabled and actually owe the military money.
But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town's wounds were actually caused by a "personality disorder." Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.
Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans' rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.
They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it's doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses.
It's like a scheme hatched up by Mr. Burns himself (you know, from the Simpsons). Can't you just hear him going, "EX-cel-lent" and then turning to Smithers and shouting "release the hounds!"?
As I listened to Kors talking about doctors telling soldiers they were making stuff up and, in one case, getting so upset with a soldier when he questioned the doctor's diagnosis that the doctor kicked him out of his office, I was immediately reminded of what so many ME/CFIDS patients go through. Civilians have been dealing with this sort of crap from long-term disability insurance companies for years. True, they didn't become disabled while volunteering to, if need be, lay down their life for their country in combat, but the horror stories you hear about intrusive surveillance and company doctors denying anything is wrong with a patient who is clearly very ill are just as blood-boiling. Indeed, I suspect the military has become cocky after denying benefits to those with Gulf War Syndrome. They figured if they got away with that, why not try the "personality disorder" route?