Three-year-old Jackson Hazlett of Portland, Ore., caressed the back of his father's head after the two were reunited at the end of April at the University of Portland. Sgt. Ryan Hazlett had been serving in Iraq. Photo by The Associated Press file

PORTLAND, Ore. — Injured Oregon Army National Guard troops just back from Iraq say the U.S. Army has been forcing many of them off active duty while they still need medical care.

National Guard Sgt. Jason Greenlees told The Oregonian that he broke his leg between tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. After 10 months of wearing 60 pounds of body armor daily while guarding convoys in Iraq, his leg is swollen and painful.

He said when Army staff at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington told him to return to Portland and his own doctor for surgery, he refused.

Greenlees said 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.

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

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have taken up their cause, complaining to the Secretary of the Army that members of Oregon's 41st Infantry Brigade Team are being systematically denied their benefits.

Schrader and Wyden have also asked the Defense Department's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the Army also discriminates against National Guard troops nationwide.

Schrader said he was particularly upset to see staff materials prepared for demobilization of the 41st this spring that depicted National Guard soldiers as weekend warriors that may be trying to game the system.

Army spokesman Jay Ebbeson told The Oregonian that the Army takes the Oregon Guard's concerns "very seriously," and Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., commanding general at Lewis-McChord, has ordered an investigation.

Lt. Col. Scott McAtee, the Oregon Guard deployment medical officer, said there appeared to be two errors within the system that discharged soldiers who should have remained on active duty.

Of the 2,700 Oregon troops, about 185 referrals were sent to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland for care for injuries, mostly back, shoulder and knee problems, he said. Staff members are working to correct their status.

Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the commanding general of the Army Medical Command, sent a letter to Wyden and Schrader saying those not satisfied with the medical care will have their cases reconsidered. He apologized for "the insensitive and offensive depiction of Reserve component soldiers."


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