Mike Deeson / WTSP-TV (Tampa, Fla.) – 2011-02-14 23:46:01
Army Told Units to Trash Gulf War Docs
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (February 11, 2011) — A letter from the Army Department telling units to destroy their records after the end of Operation Desert Storm has made it more difficult for injured veterans to get the medical benefits they need.
The letter, never made public before now, says units were told to destroy their records because officials had no room to ship the paperwork back to the United States. The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to existing Army regulations.
“This could have been one, five, six, a couple of hundred or this could be thousands [of soldiers],” says Andrew Marshall, a Florida regional officer with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans group. “You don’t know.”
One solider trying to get help from the Veterans Administration for combat-related injuries says he has been turned down because his records are missing. He did not want to be identified.
He says he has all the medical records for the time he was in the states, but the records for everything that happened outside of the country are gone.
Marshall says the Army should have backups to the records destroyed in the Persian Gulf.
But the Army’s letter says several years after soldiers began putting in medical claims, it was discovered all records below the brigade level no longer existed.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm pushed Iraqi troops out of Kuwait; it lasted from Aug. 2, 1990, to the cease-fire on April 11, 1991. In the conflict, 383 service members died; as of last year, 467 were reported injured. About 2.225 million troops served in the war, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Not just the after-action reports have been destroyed or are missing. According to some files, when some veterans come to the Veterans Administration to get help for service-related disabilities, records show they served, but medical records are missing.
That means when the vets make claims, they are turned down.
Another Gulf War vet who also didn’t want to be identified said what disturbs him most is the lack of recourse.
The veteran served 20 years in the Army. The Veterans Administration has documentation that he served in the 82nd Airborne Division as an Army Ranger and made 125 parachute jumps. All of his claims, including hearing loss, ankle and back injury, have been denied because efforts to obtain his service medical records were unsuccessful.
The Defense Department did send a letter telling the same soldier that he and others in his unit were in an area where exposure to nerve agents Saran and Cycolosarin was possible, but they should not worry about any side effects.
“So we all got exposed to nerve agent as well, and according to the military, that is never going to affect us,” he said. “They just wanted to advise us that we’ve been exposed.”
Rep. C.W. Young, R-Fla., says he did not know of the Army’s letter until now. His office asking the Defense Department to look into the matter.
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