ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department Awards Advisory Group is considering awarding the Purple Heart to troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Right now, the regulation that outlines the criteria for the Purple Heart lists PTSD as an injury that does not merit the award, along with trench foot, heat stroke and self-inflicted wounds.

The issue came up during Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent visit to Texas, when a military psychologist at Fort Bliss told reporters that making troops suffering from PTSD eligible for the Purple Heart would help remove the stigma surrounding the disorder.

Asked about the matter afterward at a news conference at Red River Army Depot, Texas, Gates replied: "It's an interesting idea. I think it's clearly something that needs to be looked at."

On Thursday, Morrell said the advisory group was looking into whether PTSD merits the Purple Heart.

"I should point out they've looked at this before, and they determined — they determined that it was not appropriate to make PTSD a qualification for the Purple Heart," Morrell said at a news conference.

The group does not have a timetable to produce a recommendation on the issue, Morrell said.

The awards group is made up of awards experts from the services and the Defense Department, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Defense Department Spokesman. The issue was referred to the group after Gates' remarks in Texas.

A group that represents veterans wounded in combat has said it opposes the idea of making PTSD an injury that qualifies for the Purple Heart.

Jack Leonard, of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said in a recent interview that PTSD can be caused by factors other than enemy action.

"Did it occur in boot camp? Did it occur because of the rough air flight into theater? Or did it occur because an individual saw the results of the Taliban massacre of a village? I can't answer that," said Leonard, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

But John E. Fortunate, the psychologist who made the suggestion at Fort Bliss, said PTSD is partially a physical disorder because it damages the brain, making it no different than shrapnel wounds.

"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," he said during Gates' visit.

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