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Army investigating health care complaint

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – A U.S. Army general said it’s a priority to investigate complaints from injured Oregon Army National Guard troops who accuse the Army of forcing many of them off active duty while they still need medical care.

General Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff, flew from Washington, D.C., Monday night to speak with soldiers at the joint base.

Chiarelli said Tuesday there’s need for one Armywide processing standard for active and reserve troops to ensure all soldiers receive the same level of health care and are not rushed through the system.

“Not only do the standards need to be the same, the time required to ensure those standards must be adequate,” Chiarelli said. “That’s the message I will be taking back to Washington, D.C.”

He added that an internal investigation has been launched at the base to look into the complaints from the Oregon reservists.

On Monday, the Oregonian newspaper first reported complaints that the Army is wrongly forcing as many as 185 injured soldiers from the 41st Infantry Brigade Team off active duty, accusing some of them of feigning injuries to extend their active-duty paychecks, which can be thousands of dollars more than their Guard pay.

The commanders said Tuesday that there were 185 referrals but that one soldier may have more than one referral to his or her name. They said each referral would be reviewed and if soldiers are found to need more medical care, they would be reinstated in active duty.

At least 40 injured Oregon soldiers remain at Lewis-McChord, weeks after their units demobilized after 10 months in Iraq, the Oregonian reported.