Army Promises to Launch Effort to Compile War Records of Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The U.S. Army has admitted it did not do a complete job of maintaining records during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, forcing officials to now piece together what’s missing and close up paperwork gaps.

 

The problem has serious implications for veterans of the two conflicts.

 

ProPublica and The Seattle Times first discovered there were missing battlefield records when they found dozens of Army and National Guard units had lost or failed to keep required field records.

 

The gaps meant veterans couldn’t prove to the Department of Veterans Affairs that they had fought or been wounded in battle, causing delays in disability benefits. The VA accepts medical and personnel records, but when those are inadequate, claimants must often track down long lost comrades at arms to sign sworn affidavits regarding their combat service. Building a disability claim from witness statements can take much more time.

 

Secretary of the Army John McHugh has announced that the service is launching a search for missing records, both in the U.S. and overseas, to fix the mess.

 

In a letter to Representative Jeff Miller (R-Florida), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, McHugh said “we acknowledge that gaps exist.”

 

Representative Michael Michaud of Maine, the senior Democrat on the committee, told ProPublica: “The admission that there are massive amounts of lost records is only the first step. I appreciate the Army issuing orders to address this serious problem, but I’m concerned that it took a letter from Congress to make it happen.”

 

Michaud added: “Our veterans have given up so much for our country, and they deserve a complete record of their service–for the sake of history as well as potential disability claims down the road,” he said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort (by Peter Sleeth, ProPublica)

Destroyed and Missing Combat Records Stymie Veterans Seeking Benefits (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

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