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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Faces of War

Dan Springer

Seattle, WA

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Injured Soldiers Claim Military Bias

January 25, 2011 - 1:19 PM | by: Dan Springer

The U.S. Army is expected to release a report any day that will examine whether national guard and reserve soldiers are treated differently than enlisted soldiers when they return from combat.

An investigation was launched last summer after a unit from the Oregon National Guard demobilized at Fort Lewis in May. Soldiers complained about being rushed through the process and were told to “suck it up” and leave the base.  An officer even created a Power Point presentation that described them as “weekend warriors” in baseball caps.

Several soldiers alleged their concerns about post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries were being dismissed by personnel at Madigan Army Hospital on base.

The soldiers’ complaints eventually reached members of the Oregon congressional delegation who demanded a full inquiry.  The Army says the report is done and is being reviewed to determine what information can’t be released to the public.

Meantime, we interviewed another National Guard soldier who says he has slipped through the cracks. Specialist Tony Stephens served two tours, one in Baghdad and the other in Kuwait. In Iraq he was exposed to multiple mortar explosions as he patrolled the Green Zone.

His second tour ended in 2007. When he returned he was suffering from a myriad of injuries including traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. Doctors at the V.A. hospital in Seattle declared Stephens 100-percent disabled and currently unemployable. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been paying Stephens $3,000. per month to compensate him for his injuries.

The Army has been much slower to act. Stephens is still winding his way through the process to get a medical discharge and either a lump sum compensation payment or retirement benefits from the Army. The key is the percentage injury doctors ascribe to Stephens.

Stephens was evaluated by doctors at Madigan Army Hospital on Fort Lewis. Officials there would not comment on Stephens’ case citing privacy restrictions. They did say the Army has learned much about PTSD and TBI since the Iraq war started in 2003.

Leaders of a different Oregon National Guard unit tell us they have seen a big difference. They demobilized at Fort Lewis in November and say they were treated with kid gloves. The Army also does a better job of identifying PTSD among troops still on deployment at the bases. There are extensive questionnaires and testing to determine if a soldier should be removed from combat.