War Is Hell

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Until recently, the so-called “signature wound” of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was traumatic brain injury — TBI — and the post-traumatic stress it could fuel. Unfortunately, there is a new category of wounds gaining prominence: genital trauma. It seems that soldiers on foot patrols — the preferred way of conducting counter-insurgency operations — are vulnerable to such injuries when IEDs explode as they step on a mine.

Body armor has a groin protector that shields the region from blasts coming from the front, but does little to protect against blasts from down below. The problem has gotten so bad that the benefit rates for soldiers who have suffered such wounds are now under review by the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs.

“If a man loses a penis, he doesn’t get the same benefits as if he lost a finger,” Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, complained Thursday. “It isn’t fair, and it needs to be fixed,” he told VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, according to the independent Military Times newspaper. The VA-provided insurance program pays soldiers $50,000 for the loss of a thumb, but only up to $25,000 for the loss of reproductive organs. And soldiers have two thumbs.