Why would America give veterans second-class medical treatment? Why would Iraq War veterans with head trauma not be cleared for the kind of therapy that is common for civilian victims?
Those are the questions that National Public Radio and Pro Publica addressed in a report that aired last Tuesday.
Because of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that has proliferated in Middle East combat theaters, U.S. soldiers have returned in increasing numbers with severe head trauma. The jarring fact is that the Pentagon is not clearing such veterans for the kind of treatment that is used for civilians with similar injuries.
The treatment is called cognitive rehabilitation, and it was recommended unanimously to the Pentagon by a group of 50 specialists whose advice the military invited.
NPRs investigation determined that despite this recommendation, the Pentagons insurer, Tricare, refuses to pay for cognitive rehabilitation. In the wake of the specialists recommendation, Tricare sought another review of the evidence, which ruled against cognitive rehabilitation. Reading that subsequent review, one of the nations leading head trauma specialists told NPR: Im horrified. And: Its baloney.
Said another specialist:This isnt a debate about care. Its about money.
Indeed, the bottom line is that the Pentagon doesnt want to spend the money needed to give U.S. troops the best standard of treatment. Put another way, in NPRs words, The military cant afford to pay for cognitive rehabilitation.
The Pentagon would not speak to NPR for its report.
More damning is that the White House would not respond to a request for President Obamas position. Thats especially galling, because U.S. Sen. Barack Obama signed a letter saying that Tricare should use cognitive rehabilitation for the troops.
It speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of our government that it would send men and women to risk their lives, but wont pay for the kind of treatment that is commonly recommended and given to civilians.