January 28, 2008
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR

   

NPR NEWS REPORTS:
ARMY OFFICIALS INSTRUCTED VETERANS' AFFAIRS OFFICE
TO STOP ASSISTING INJURED SOLDIERS IN NEW YORK
WITH MILITARY DISABILITY PAPERWORK

REPORT AIRING ON NPR NEWS MORNING EDITION
TOMORROW, TUESDAY, JANUARY 29

STORY ONLINE AT:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18492376

AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE TOMORROW AT 9:00AM (ET)


January 28, 2008; Washington, D.C. – NPR News reports that Army officials instructed the Department of Veterans' Affairs at a military base in upstate New York to stop assisting injured soldiers with their military disability paperwork, which is used to determine annual disability payments. The report, from NPR Justice Correspondent Ari Shapiro, is airing tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29 on NPR News’ Morning Edition.

Shapiro travels to Fort Drum Army Base outside of Syracuse, where soldiers tell him that, beginning last year, the Veterans’ Affairs office said that it could no longer review the narrative summaries of soldiers’ disability paperwork, under instructions from a team of Army officials who visited from Washington. According to an Army spokesperson, the Army does not have a policy against soldiers receiving outside assistance with this paperwork.

Relaying a conversation he had with one of the soldiers, Shapiro reports: “He said 20 or 30 injured soldiers sat in a classroom. The VA official stood up in front of the group and said, ‘We cannot help you review the narrative summaries of your medical problems.’ The man from VA told the class that the VA used to help soldiers with army medical paperwork. But some Army folks didn't like that. The VA instructor told the troops that an Army team from Washington complained to the VA regional office in Buffalo. The instructor said these Army officials saw soldiers from Fort Drum getting higher disability ratings because of the VA's help. So the Army told the VA, knock it off. Stop helping Fort Drum soldiers describe their army injuries. The VA did as it was told.”

The Army confirmed to Shapiro that it did send a group investigating medical disability benefits to Fort Drum, and that group determined the VA should not be helping soldiers with their medical paperwork. The Army did not explain the motivations behind this reasoning.

A Web companion story is available now at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18492376 Audio will be available tomorrow at 9:00AM (ET). All excerpts must be credited to NPR News Morning Edition. Television usage must include on-screen NPR News credit with NPR logo.

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