Why would America give veterans second-class medical treatment? Why would Iraq War veterans with head trauma not be cleared for the kind of therapy that is common for civilian victims?

Those are the questions that National Public Radio and Pro Publica addressed in a report that aired earlier this month.

Because of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that has proliferated in Middle East combat theaters, U.S. soldiers have returned in increasing numbers with severe head trauma. The jarring fact is that the Pentagon is not clearing such veterans for the kind of treatment that is used for civilians with similar injuries.

The treatment is called cognitive rehabilitation, and it was recommended unanimously to the Pentagon by a group of 50 specialists whose advice the military invited.

NPR’s investigation determined that despite this recommendation, the Pentagon’s insurer, Tricare, refuses to pay for cognitive rehabilitation. In the wake of the specialists’ recommendation, Tricare sought another review of the evidence, which ruled against cognitive rehabilitation. Reading that subsequent review, one of the nation’s leading head trauma specialists told NPR: “I’m horrified.” And: “It’s baloney.”

Said another specialist: “This isn’t a debate about care. It’s about money.”

Indeed, the bottom line is that the Pentagon doesn’t want to spend the money needed to give U.S. troops the best standard of treatment. Put another way, in NPR’s words, “The military can’t afford to pay for cognitive rehabilitation.”

The Pentagon would not speak to NPR for its report.

More damning is that the White House would not respond to a request for President Obama’s position. That’s especially galling, because U.S. Sen. Barack Obama signed a letter saying that Tricare should use cognitive rehabilitation for the troops.

It speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of our government that it would send men and women to risk their lives, but won’t pay for the kind of treatment that is commonly recommended and given to civilians.

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