Monday, January 17, 2011

In U.S. military, a new attitude welcomes amputee soldiers to continue in service

From The Mirror in the UK:

The United States has dramatically changed its policies to look after amputee soldiers.

Previously an American serviceman who lost a limb in combat would be discharged with free health care for life. He would be given a pension and help in finding a job.

But today any amputee soldier who wants to stay in the forces, and is fit enough, can do so.

Soldiers who want to return to active duty go to a training base. When they can run 12 miles in under three hours with a 35-pound pack, they are given the option of returning to the battlefield. With the new generation of prosthetic legs many are able to achieve this and there are now 41 US amputee veterans serving in combat zones.

If they can't reach that level of fitness they are assigned desk jobs or become drill instructors, counsellors or analysts.

Of 395 "major limb amputees" judged fit enough to continue in the military, 65 opted to do so and returned to active duty.

The others chose to take disability pensions and return to civilian life.

More than 1000 US soldiers have lost one or more limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan. The US has three centres devoted entirely to amputee soldiers. At any one time, they are treating a total of about 600 soldiers.

A Pentagon spokesman said: "The mindset of our Army has changed, to the extent that we realize the importance of all our soldiers and what they can contribute to our Army. Someone who loses a limb is still a very valuable asset."