An Iraq War veteran and 17-year member of the Army National Guard is seeking better veterans’ disability benefits after she was injured in training in 2004. Based on the details of the case, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is asking the Defense Department to clarify the current rule that stipulates that those injured in training situations are not treated equally to those who are injured in combat.Tanya Towne was a radio repair specialist with the 42nd Infantry Division. In the summer of 2004, she participated in a house-clearing drill in which she was expected to climb through a window with the help of other service members while wearing about fifty pounds of battle gear and equipment. She fell, suffering a back injury that left her with chronic and debilitating pain. She lived with the pain for the ten months that followed in Iraq, but was found medically unfit to serve at the end of her deployment. In 2009, she was honorably discharged and given a 10 percent disability rating.
However, because she was injured in training, her disability payments were cut. The reason? A Bush Administration interpretation of a federal law that links disability benefits with combat-related injuries. The argument comes down to the line, “as a direct result of armed conflict.”
While wounded veterans like Towne believe that the law is being misinterpreted and that thousands of service members with serious injuries are going without support, others believe that giving full disability benefits to those injured in training situations would be costly.