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Navy Updates Purple Heart Award Policy

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In response to advances in the diagnosis and treatment of mild traumatic brain injuries, the secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) discussed updates to the standards and procedures for awarding the Purple Heart Dec. 15, one of the military's most recognized awards.

"In light of recent research, military neurologists have discovered the scope of mild traumatic brain injuries is wider than previously thought," said SECNAV Ray Mabus. "Wounds suffered while defending our nation, whether seen or unseen, deserve our utmost gratitude and respect."

The standards provided in the ALNAV message are consistent with historic standards and previous awards of the Purple Heart since World War II, when the award was first authorized for the Navy and Marine Corps.

"Sailors and Marines may be awarded the Purple Heart for certain mild traumatic brain injuries that were caused by enemy action" explained Jim Nierle, president, Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals. "If they suffered a loss of consciousness, or had to be given the disposition of 'not fit for full duty' by a medical officer for a period greater than 48 hours after a concussive event, they may qualify for the Purple Heart."

Purple Hearts awarded for MTBI will continue to meet the historical standards of severity applied to all types of wounds, ensuring the prestige of the award is maintained. Applying these standards to MTBI, the concussive event must have been caused either directly or indirectly by an enemy action with intent to kill or maim.

To learn more about Purple Heart award standards and procedures, read ALNAV 079/11.

Article by Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs