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DOD Issues Purple Heart Standards for Brain Injury

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – U.S. service members have long been eligible to receive the Purple Heart Medal for the signature wounds of the current wars -– mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions -– but now there is more clarity on how medical criteria for the award are applied, Defense Department officials said yesterday.

The criteria for the Purple Heart award state that the injury must have been caused by enemy action or in action against the enemy and has to be of a degree requiring treatment by a medical officer.

But it may be difficult to determine when a mild traumatic brain injury or a concussive injury that does not result in a loss of consciousness is severe enough to require treatment by a medical officer. “This is why we created this baseline standard,” DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.

DOD allows the award of the Purple Heart even if a service member was not treated by a medical officer, as long as a medical officer certifies that the injury would have required treatment by a medical officer had one been available.

DOD officials said that as the science of traumatic brain injuries becomes better understood, guidance for award of the medal will evolve.

“The services are not able to speculate as to how many service members may have received a mild TBI or concussion but did not seek or receive medical treatment,” Lainez said. “Therefore, each military department will establish its retroactive review procedures in the near future to ensure deserving service members are appropriately recognized.” Retroactive reviews would cover injuries suffered since Sept. 11, 2001, she added.

The Marine Corps has issued clarifying guidance to ensure commanders in the field understand when the Purple Heart is appropriate for concussions.

Army officials are preparing to issue their guidance and ask soldiers to wait until submission requirements are published through command channels and on the Human Resources Command website at before submitting or resubmitting nominations for the Purple Heart Medal for concussion injuries.

Once the Army publishes its requirements, officials said, soldiers should resubmit requests through their chains of command.

Army veterans should resubmit to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at: Commander, USA HRC, ATTN: Awards and Decorations Branch (AHRC-PDP-A), 1600 Spearhead Division Ave., Fort Knox, KY 40122. Vets also can call 1-888-276-9472 or email


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

7/18/2011 8:21:15 PM
What about a list of those who have refused a Purple Heart for feeling that his injury did not warrant a Purple Heart? I have been told my father did this in WWII.
- Robin Hastings, California

5/1/2011 10:43:02 AM
April 1969 Co C 4th Battaiion,47th Infantry Reg.9th Infantary Div. Co.C 2nd.Platoon was ambushed by units of the Viet Cong army.Pinned down in an open rice paddy Toney recieved metal fragments in the left jaw. The company medic treated him then moved on to other wounded. The result Tony got no Purple Heart. Forty years later With a Sworn letter from his Platoon sgt. a writen statement from a Doctor and X-Rays ( 4 views ) The Dr. States in hand written note Multiple shrapnel embedded in left jaw and soft tissue,The note signed by Dr. Fellow of the American College of Physicians on 24 Sept 2010. This is not unusual for soulders in the field in Vietnam, Most of us just gave up. Go home don't talk to anybody Don't wear your uniform in public. There's nothing ealse for you. Good Luck Toney
- Blucher,Toney Jr., Virginia USA

4/28/2011 7:17:30 PM
In reference to the Award of the Purple Heart, for those soldiers who did not recieve treatment at the time, How do we conclude or determine their eligibilty for the award without medical documents from the time it occured or will documents at the present time showing they are being treated by a licensed military doctor be ok
- David Santos, Hawaii

4/28/2011 1:46:28 PM
There is no mention of changes for the Air Force or Navy. Also, does not mention if retro to Vietnam. People received head injuries in that war also and they should be included. I am talking about myself.
- John Birch, Florida

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