Yesterday, Peter Sleeth was a guest on PBS NewsHour to discuss his ProPublica/Seattle Times investigation into how the U.S. military mismanaged crucial war records from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and why that makes it more difficult for veterans to collect disability benefits.
Sleeth described the odyssey that Christopher DeLara went through just to prove to he was deserving of benefits. “He waited five years to get his disability benefits for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He had been a clerk in Baghdad, but had been sent on many combat missions. At first they denied him simply because of a paperwork error that he hadn’t even been in Iraq. That was corrected. Then they denied him because he didn’t have PTSD they said. The third time he applied is when the field records came in. He had given them detailed events of when he had been in combat, and the Army could find no record that he had ever been in combat in any of these situations. That kept him for at least another one or two years from getting any disability benefits.”
“This is the first real electronic war, where records were to be kept on computers,” said Sleeth. “It was new – they had strict rules and regulations about what were to be done. But if the commanding officer of a given unit didn’t insist these things be done, they weren’t done. That happened again and again and again. Reports either weren’t made, weren’t kept, or their hard drives on their computers were wiped before they came home, thus losing all those records.”
Watch the full interview below.
We also hope you’ll watch the very moving story of Jim Butler and how he had to piece together what happened to his son since the Army lost his records as well.
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