WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 2, 2011) -- The Army issued new guidance April 29 that clarifies how Soldiers who've suffered concussive injuries as the result of enemy action might be eligible for the Purple Heart.
While Army regulations have for some time specified that enemy-generated concussions justify awarding oaf a Purple Heart, what had been left unclear was the definition of concussion -- which is also known as mild traumatic brain injury.
Included in the additional guidance are examples of signs, symptoms or medical conditions documented by a medical officer or medical professional that meet the standard for awarding of the Purple Heart. Examples of such signs and symptoms include:
-- diagnosis of concussion or mild traumatic brain injury
-- any period of memory loss or a decreased level of consciousness
-- any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the injury
-- neurological deficits, including weakness, loss of balance, change in vision, headaches, nausea, difficulty with understanding or expressing words, sensitivity to light, or difficulty with coordinating movements
-- intracranial lesions
Also included in the guidance are examples of medical treatment for concussion that meet the standard of treatment necessary for awarding of the Purple Heart. Examples of treatment include:
-- limitation of duty following the incident
-- pain medication such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. to treat injury, such as headache
-- referral to neurologist or neuropsychologist to treat the injury
-- rehabilitation, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, to treat injury
The guidance says Soldiers who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries or concussive injuries may qualify for a Purple Heart when both diagnostic and treatment factors are present and documented in a Soldier's medical record by a medical officer.
A non-military medical professional may also document those conditions, the guidance says, stating that a medical officer must follow up on that documentation.
The guidance also clarifies both the terms "medical officer" and "medical professional."
The guidance, available online in Milper Message Number 11-125, or Army Directive 2011-07, clarifies existing standards for awarding of the Purple Heart. It does not change the standards for its award or alter Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards).
The new clarifying directive is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, and the Army is encouraging Soldiers and veterans who were previously denied a Purple Heart for concussion to resubmit documentation for reconsideration.
Soldiers currently serving in the active Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard should resubmit through their chain of command.
Veterans should resubmit to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at:
Commander, USA HRC
ATTN: Awards & Decorations Branch (AHRC-PDP-A)
1600 Spearhead Division Ave.
Fort Knox, KY 40122
(Army News Service correspondents Todd Lopez and J.D. Leipold contributed to this report.)