Purple Heart Clarity

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Troops suffering from traumatic brain injury — one of the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — have long been eligible for the Purple Heart. But now the Pentagon is clarifying the rules:

1. The criteria for the Purple Heart award state that the injury must have been caused by enemy action, or in action against the enemy, and has to be of a degree requiring treatment by a medical officer.

2. The Pentagon allows the award of the Purple Heart even if a service member was not treated by a medical officer, as long as a medical officer certifies that the injury would have required treatment by a medical officer had one been available.

(The Marines have just issued guidelines for the new standard to cut down on cheap Purple Hearts:

Evaluation by a medical officer solely to determine the extent of an injury does not establish a requirement for treatment by a medical officer if the injury is determined to be at a level that could have been adequately treated by a corpsman (e.g., a medical officer examines x-rays of a Marine with a possible broken arm and returns the Marine to duty). Similarly, a decision by a medical officer to treat a minor wound that a corpsman could have adequately treated does not mean the wound required treatment by a medical officer.)

3. Retroactive reviews will cover injuries suffered since Sept. 11, 2001, including personnel no longer in the military.

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