Gulf War Medical Records

Posted: September 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Numerous veterans who served in Operation Desert Storm have had difficulty validating their current medical conditions as service connected. Gerry Propst, a 82nd Airborne veteran, attempting to obtain records to substantiate his VA claim was told the only thing that they had was his physical before going in, and an ear exam going out. Well, how did they lose everything in between. It appears that many of the records were intentionally destroyed by the Army. Propst alleges among the missing records is the documented proof he suffered a major back injury during a parachute assault. "Amazingly enough, when I broke my back, I was flown off the drop zone to an emergency hospital in the area, in the country of Jordan. [Then I was] flown to Germany – all of this by military aircraft – flown to Malcrom Grow hospital in Washington DC, then to Norfolk Hospital in Virginia, and then back to a hospital in Fort Bragg. All [the trips] on Air Force aircraft, and nobody has anything with my name on it that I was ever there," said Propst. Propst recovered from that injury, but says he was soon back on desert duty, which aggravated it.
Propst was able to finish his tour of duty, but he recalls what he says he was ordered to do before he could come home. "We were told [to] mail everything home. Everything that's not mailed by the end of this week, you either carry on your back or we're gonna burn it," Propst said. "They were throwing our medical records and every non-essential piece of equipment into the burn pits because there was no room to fly it home. You're worried about getting shot the next day. You're not worried about what they're doing with that box and what's in it," he explained.  And Propst didn‘t worry too much about his back pain back then either. He was young and strong. He did his final year of duty at Fort Bragg and then joined a police force. But years later, Propst says it became just too much to bear. When he started applying for VA disability benefits about three years ago, he immediately hit a brick wall. The Veterans Administration had no record of Propst‘s back, knee, or ankle injuries while in the military.
"I've been dealing with denials, I know I'm not alone," he said. And he is not, veteran Chris Layton says he feels Propst's pain. I don't have any medical records or records to show anything," Layton said. Layton, a former Fort Bragg paratrooper who also served in Desert Storm, says he hurt his back on a jump and there is no record of it. "You're expected to do a job in the military and then you expect if something happens that you'll be looked after," he said.
But earlier this year, there was a glimmer of hope. Propst saw a story similar to his done by a Florida TV station featuring what appears to be a letter from the Department of the Army with an admission. ―Units were told to destroy their records since there was no space to ship the paper back to the states,‖ reads the letter, which it says was in ―direct contradiction to the existing army regulations.‖ A copy of the 1 May 2007 letter can be seen in this Bulletin's attachment titled, "Gulf War Medical Records Destruction". Through a public record request, the Army sent ABC11 a copy of the original letter which they in turn provided to Senator Kay Hagan to get her reaction "My first reaction was certainly the military didn't destroy any records and so getting to the bottom of that has been interesting," she said. "I wanted to be sure what the protocol was to do such a thing and why." In turn, Hagan wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta asking what the protocol is if records are lost or missing. "I just want to be sure we get to the bottom of this so those veterans that have served our country and military, that we are certain that they not only can get the VA services, but the benefits they deserve," Hagan said. "I mean these people have fought for our country." She is currently awaiting a response.
Probst and Layton continued to appeal VA denials. Probst even got the medic who treated him then – now a doctor – to confirm he was treated during the war for chronic pain due to parachute injury. He did eventually get a percentage of his service disability benefits approved, but was being denied compensation for back, leg, and other injuries. In the interim VA is providing medical treatment for both veterans injuries. Probst and Layton both say that since ABC11's story first aired, they heard from the Veterans' Administration and had examinations to determine if their injuries are service related. The examination was good news for Propst, who says the VA doctor gave his medical opinion that all his medical issues are service related. He is now just waiting for the official VA decision in writing and what that will mean in terms of compensation for those injuries. Layton has not heard his results yet.
This comes down to his and other Gulf War veterans disability benefits for service-connected injuries. ABC11 has heard from other veterans who say they‘re dealing with roadblocks when it comes to getting treatment or services. [Source: ABC11 Diane Wilson article 9 May & Veteran Issues by Colonel Dan 4 Aug 2011 ++]

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