VFW demands apology after Trump claims traumatic brain injuries are not 'very serious'

popular

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has demanded an apology from President Trump over recent comments in which he downplayed the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries suffered by American troops in an Iranian missile attack.

"The Veterans of Foreign Wars cannot stand idle on this matter," William "Doc" Schmitz, VFW National Commander, said in a statement Friday, noting TBI is a serious injury known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches and other symptoms in the short and long-term.


"The VFW expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks," Schmitz added.

"And, we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times. Our warriors require our full support more than ever in this challenging environment."

The nation's oldest veterans organization, the VFW claims roughly 1.6 million members spread among more than 6,000 posts worldwide, according to a VFW fact sheet.

A VFW spokesman was not immediately available for further comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Task & Purpose.

Iran launched ballistic missiles at bases housing American and Iraqi troops on Jan. 8 in retaliation for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a senior Iranian military commander. Although most troops were hunkered down inside bunkers when missiles struck, some were hit by blast waves resulting in concussions or traumatic brain injury, Army Col. Myles Caggins, a U.S. military spokesman, told The New York Times.

The VFW statement came after the Pentagon's top spokesman told reporters on Friday morning that a total of 34 American troops had been treated for TBI following the attack. Eighteen troops were medically evacuated out of Iraq for treatment, while 16 were treated in Iraq and have since returned to duty.

The day after the Iranian missile attack, Trump reported in a White House address that "no Americans were harmed," a claim that can be seen as reasonable at the time since TBI, concussions, and other non-obvious physical injuries can take some time to assess.

Still, the VFW and other critics have taken issue with what Trump said nearly two weeks later to reporters while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Asked about the discrepancy between no casualties and the Pentagon reporting then that 11 service members had been taken in for medical treatment, Trump said he had heard initially that some troops "had headaches" before explaining that he didn't consider traumatic brain injuries as "very serious," since they were not as bad as physical wounds from IED attacks.

This was the full exchange on Jan. 22:

WEIJIA JIANG, CBS News: Mr. President, a question on Iran. Initially you said repeatedly to Americans that after Iran retaliated for the Soleimani strike, no Americans were injured. We now know at least 11 US service members airlifted from Iraq. Can you explain the discrepancy?"

TRUMP: "No, I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it is not very serious."

JIANG: "You don't consider a potential traumatic brain injury serious?"

TRUMP: "They told me about it numerous days later, you'd have to ask Department of Defense. No, I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen. I've seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops. I've seen people with no legs and with no arms, I've seen people that were horribly horribly injured in that area, that war. In fact, many cases put those bombs put there by Soleimani, who is no longer with us. I consider them to be really bad injuries. No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries no."


Army recruiters hold a swearing-in ceremony for over 40 of Arkansas' Future Soldiers at the Arkansas State Capital Building. (U.S. Army/Amber Osei)

Though the Army has yet to actually set an official recruiting goal for this year, leaders are confident they're going to bring in more soldiers than last year.

Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told reporters on Wednesday that the Army was currently 2,226 contracts ahead of where it was in 2019.

"I will just tell you that this time last year we were in the red, and now we're in the green which is — the momentum's there and we see it continuing throughout the end of the year," Muth said, adding that the service hit recruiting numbers in February that haven't been hit during that month since 2014.

Read More
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

Read More
In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.

Read More
A U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk crew chief with the New Jersey National Guard's 1-171st General Support Aviation Battalion stands for a portrait at the Army Aviation Support Facility on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Feb. 3, 2020 (Air National Guard photo / Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard members often serve side-by-side performing highly skilled and dangerous jobs, such as parachuting, explosives demolition and flight deck operations.

Reservists and Guard members are required to undergo the same training as specialized active-duty troops, and they face the same risks. Yet the extra incentive pay they receive for their work — called hazardous duty incentive pay — is merely a fraction of what their active-duty counterparts receive for performing the same job.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, are partnering on legislation to correct the inequity. Known as the Guard and Reserve Hazard Duty Pay Equity Act, the bill seeks to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for all members of the armed services, including Reserve and National Guard components.

Read More
A screen grab from a YouTube video shows Marines being arrested during formation at Camp Pendleton in July, 2019. (Screen capture)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.

Read More