WASHINGTON — More than 43,000 U.S. troops listed as medically unfit for combat in the weeks before their scheduled deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 were sent anyway, USA Today reported Thursday, citing Pentagon records.
The numbers of nondeployable soldiers are based on health assessment forms filled out by medical personnel at each military installation before a servicemember’s deployment, the paper noted.
According to the statistics, the number of troops that doctors found nondeployable, but were still sent to Iraq or Afghanistan fluctuated from 10,854 in 2003, down to 5,397 in 2005, and back up to 9,140 in 2007, USA Today wrote.
The Pentagon records do not list what — or how serious — the health issues are, nor whether they were corrected before deployment, Michael Kilpatrick, a deputy director for the Pentagon’s Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs, told the paper.
A Pentagon staffer examined 10,000 individual health records last year to determine causes for the nondeployable ratings, Kilpatrick said.
Some reasons included a need for eyeglasses, dental work or allergy medicine and a small number of mental health cases, Kilpatrick told USA Today.
This is the first war in which this health screening process has been used, according to the Pentagon.
Most of the nondeployable servicemembers are in the Army, which is doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, USA Today wrote.
Unit commanders make the final decision about whether a servicemember is sent into combat, although doctors can recommend against deployment because of a medical issue, Army spokeswoman Kim Waldron told the paper.