RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

PTSD PURPLE HEART UPDATE 15 June 2008

Posted by Service Officer on June 15th, 2008

Recently, a military psychologist John E. Fortunato at Fort Bliss TX told reporters during a roundtable that making troops with PTSD eligible for the Purple Heart could help destigmatize the disorder. “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.” When asked about Fortunato’s suggestion later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called it an interesting idea, adding the matter is clearly something that needs to be looked into.

On 16 MAY, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the issue was referred to the Defense Department Awards Advisory Group after Gates’ remarks. “I should point out they’ve looked at this before, and they determined that it was not appropriate to make PTSD a qualification for the Purple Heart,” Morrell said at a news conference. 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 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 Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) veterans group for combat wounded troops whose mission is to preserve the integrity of the Purple Heart has come out against giving the award to troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They claim that PTSD does not merit the Purple Heart, according to an Army regulation that lays out the criteria for the award. MOPH representatives said, the Purple Heart was set up for combat wounds, for those who have shed blood, and although PTSD is a physical disease and is an injury it does not qualify for the merit of Purple Heart based on that. Injuries that merit the Purple Heart must happen in a combat theater and must be a direct result of enemy action. The group’s concern about PTSD is that it can be caused by other factors, not necessarily the enemy. “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? Stars and Stripes called the medical center where Fortunato works for a response, but a spokesman there referred questions to Army Human Resources Command, adding that Fortunato should not have commented on the Purple Heart in the first place because the issue is “out of our medical lane.” [Source: Stars and Stripes Jeff Schogol article 14 & 17 May 08 ++]

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