The US has sent more than 43,000 troops deemed medically unfit for combat to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, USA Today reports. Since 2003 soldiers deemed non-deployable by medical officers have shipped anyway, according to Pentagon documents, with unit commanders overruling doctors. “It is a consequence of the consistent churning of our troops,” says one veterans advocate. Among National Guard and reserve troops, 5%-7% were deemed unfit.
The papers don’t say what conditions the soldiers had; reasons can range from the need for dental work to mental health problems. Commanders consult the health care professionals to see if treatment is available in theater, one colonel explains. But after an investigation of one brigade last year, seven of its 36 medically unfit soldiers were sent home for treatment.