Thursday, May 8, 2008

USA TODAY FINDS MORE THAN 43,000 MEDICALLY UNFIT TROOPS SENT TO WAR

GREGG ZOROYA, USA TODAY More than 43,000 U.S. troops listed as medically unfit for combat in the weeks before their scheduled deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 were sent anyway, Pentagon records show. This reliance on troops found medically "non-deployable" is another sign of stress placed on a military that has sent 1.6 million service members to the war zones, soldier advocacy groups say.

The Pentagon records do not list what - or how serious - the health issues are, nor whether they were corrected before deployment, said Michael Kilpatrick, a deputy director for the Pentagon's Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs. A Pentagon staffer examined 10,000 individual health records last year to determine causes for the non-deployable ratings, Kilpatrick said. Some reasons included a need for eyeglasses, dental work or allergy medicine and a small number of mental health cases, he said.

Most of the non-deployable servicemembers are in the Army, which is doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between 5% and 7% of all active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers slated for combat were found medically unfit due to health problems each year since 2003, according to statistics provided to USA Today

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