Yet when it was time for the Army to take care of him, one of its wounded
warriors, Van Antwerp gave up before he even began. Rather than fight for a
higher disability rating, he quietly signed for 20 percent — and no medical
benefits — saying he knew he couldn’t do better.
He inherited his father’s stubbornness, he said, and refused to ask anyone to pull strings based on his dad’s rank. Then his first medical board counselor, the person who would help him make his way through the medical evaluation board system, left. The second, he said, “wasn’t on the ball.”
“The Army is trying to give you the lowest amount of money possible,” he said. “A lot of people are appealing, but I’ll be going to [the Department of Veterans Affairs]. I want to go home.”
His dad is a three star General.
In a time of war, when the numbers of injured soldiers has risen exponentially, the DoD is providing less and less disabiity.
In 2001, 10 percent of soldiers going through the medical retirement process
received permanent disability benefits. In 2005, with two wars raging, that
percentage dropped to 3 percent, according to the Government Accountability
Office. Reservists dropped from 16 percent to 5 percent.
The ineptness of some personnel and the cumbersome system also hurt soldiers marriages and family life.
Pfc. Martin Jackson, 30, spent 16 months in Iraq as a supply sergeant with
4th Brigade, 27th Infantry Battalion. Two years ago, while running from a mortar
round in Balad, Iraq, he tripped and twisted his leg.
“I thought it was just an ankle sprain,” he said. “One day I woke up and just couldn’t move.”He had twisted his spine. Now the soft-spoken soldier cannot sit or stand for too long, or lift anything over 10 pounds, which limits his work as a supply clerk.
He has spent two years at Walter Reed going through rehabilitation and waiting for his discharge, which means he hasn’t lived with his wife of 10 years for more than three years.
“She’s been talking about a divorce,” he said. “I just signed [my rating] so I could go home and be with my family.”
The more stories that come out on this, the worse off the situation gets.
The Washington Post started the ball rolling with its hard hitting expose of Walter Reed. The Progressive picked up on the Reserve / National Guard angle of Veterans coverage. Newsweek has a multiple page spread on the issues. The Army Times has strong coverage as well.
Continuing the coverage of these stories is important. We will remain vigilant.