Programs Assist Injured Servicemembers

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2007 - Servicemembers who've suffered serious injuries resulting from their wartime service can get financial help thanks to two congressionally legislated programs, a senior U.S. military officer said July 3.

Congress established the Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program in 2005 in response to the experiences of some former and current military members who found themselves financially strapped after they suffered severe injuries during the war against terrorism. Coverage applies to active-duty and reserve-component members.

"This program provides up to $100,000 per event, depending on (the type of) injury," Army Col. John Sackett, a disability compensation expert with U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va., said during a telephone interview with online journalists and "bloggers."

All servicemembers covered under the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program, whether active duty, reserve or National Guard, were enrolled for TSGLI coverage on Dec. 1, 2005.

To date, the Army has paid out a total of more than $130 million under TSGLI, Sackett said.

The TSGLI benefit has both retroactive and prospective aspects, Sackett said. The benefit is provided retroactively for servicemembers who suffered severe combat-zone-related injuries between Oct. 7, 2001, and Dec. 1, 2005, he said. The prospective aspect, he added, applies to servicemembers with injuries received "any time, anywhere" from Dec. 1, 2005, forward.

Currently, TSGLI doesn't offer compensation for veterans who've developed post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of battlefield service, Sackett said.

"TSGLI hasn't allowed for that loss at this point in time," Sackett said. But, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working to include other types of injuries, including PTSD, under TSGLI program coverage, he said.

Yet, military veterans who suffer from combat-zone-related PTSD may be eligible for financial aid under the Combat-Related Special Compensation program, which became effective June 1, 2003, said Sackett, who is chief of the CRSC and TSGLI divisions at U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

The CRSC program provides compensation for eligible retired veterans with combat-related injuries who have 20 years of military service and have received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability rating of 10 to 100 percent, Sackett said.

Chapter 61, Title 10, U.S. Code provides the secretaries of the military departments with authority to retire or discharge servicemembers who are unable to perform military duties because of physical disability.

Sackett said the military is considering asking for congressional legislation that would enable medically retired servicemembers discharged under Chapter 61 to receive compensation for PTSD. There's also military interest in petitioning Congress for authority to provide compensation assistance to servicemembers with PTSD who have between one and 19 years of military service.

These matters are now being worked between the military services and the Defense Department, Sackett said.

"I have proposed both TSGLI and CRSC legislative improvements to the program, as well as meetings with the VA and the other services," Sackett said.

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