Defense Department clarifies Purple Heart criteria for brain injury
Published: April 28, 2011
WASHINGTON – On the heels of a Marine Corps announcement that revised the criteria for awarding a Purple Heart medal for mild traumatic brain injuries, the Pentagon on Wednesday issued guidance to clear up any confusion about department-wide standards for the medal.
The Defense Department’s criteria state that the injury must have been caused by enemy action or have occurred during an engagement with the enemy. Secondly, the injury must have been severe enough to have required a medical officer’s treatment. That applies even if no officer was present to provide care, officials said.
Services previously dealt with TBI, a condition often caused by blast that has been called the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in different ways. The Marines had the most severe threshold, following the practice of only awarding Purple Hearts for injuries that caused unconsciousness.
But new medical finding convinced Marine Corps officials that even mild TBIs without loss of consciousness could cause lasting, serious harm. Some mild TBI symptoms include vision problems, nausea, dizziness, speech problems and loss of coordination. Recent research suggests any form of TBI may cause clinical depression in 30 percent of sufferers.
While the other services did not explicitly state the requirement of a loss of consciousness, Pentagon officials said the new guideline would bring clarity to the process of awarding the medal.
The Marines have already set up a process for retroactively awarding Purple Heart medals under the new guidelines; other services are expected to announce their own procedures soon, the Pentagon said.
In order to be considered retroactively for the medal, Marines who have sustained mild traumatic brain injury should submit a reclama for reconsideration of eligibility, including medical records and supporting statements from commanders, to:
Commandant of the Marine Corps (MMMA), Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 3280 Russell Road, Quantico, VA 22134-5103.
To locate members of the chain of command:
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps (MMSB-17), 2008 Elliot Road Suite 201, Quantico, VA 22134-5030. Email requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 1-800-368-3710.
To get copies of medical records: Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Management Center, P.O. Box 5020, St. Louis, MO 63115.
Questions about how to navigate the Marine process can be emailed to: hqmc.manpower.ph_mTBI_reclama@usmc.mil.
Officials said the Army’s instructions would soon be available on the the Human Resources Command website at http://www.hrc.army.mil. Soldiers can resubmit requests through their chains of command once the instructions are released.
Army veterans should resubmit requests to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command to:
Commander, USA HRC, ATTN: Awards and Decorations Branch (AHRC-PDP-A) 1600 Spearhead Division Ave., Fort Knox, KY 40122.
Vets also can call 1-888-276-9472 or email email@example.com.