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National Guardsman claims Air Force left him after duty injury.

A National Guardsman ⁣has raised his service-related health issues to the highest​ levels of the Air Force.‌ But according ​to him, he’s ​“basically ⁤been ⁤told ⁢to pound sand.”

After beginning active-duty​ military service in ⁢1999⁢ in the Army, ‌Master Sergeant James Buckley‌ joined the Mississippi⁤ Air National Guard in 2010, becoming a ‌member of ‍Air Force⁣ Special Warfare’s Tactical Air Control Party.​ Embedded with⁢ troops on the‌ ground, air-to-ground communication was​ his⁤ expertise.

In 2019, a new physical fitness⁢ test was implemented for special operators. The new test went beyond the standard push-ups, sit-ups, and 1.5-mile run to include a​ medicine ball throw, agility ​events,‍ and more.

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MSgt. Buckley was ⁣injured while performing⁤ “a farmer’s carry,” an event that required running 100 meters with a 50-pound sandbag in ⁢each hand. Initially describing a pain in his shoulder as “an inconvenience,”⁤ he pushed himself to complete all the events of the‍ test. In the months to follow,‌ the pain was persistent. In July 2020, he noticed that his ability to perform pull-ups was drastically reduced. An MRI scan ‌revealed a torn labrum, a thick‍ tissue attached to⁢ the shoulder ⁤socket.

“I was asked to write a statement about the injury,” ⁢he said. “In an email, I explained that I thought ‍I injured it in 2019, and by the beginning of 2020, I knew I had really injured it.” To his surprise, the email statement was⁢ used against him. According to him,⁣ the ⁤email was misconstrued, and it was determined that an injury did not occur in 2019 because it was not reported in 2019. The Epoch Times has viewed this email and other documentation referenced in this report.

As a result, he ⁤said, “I was ⁢not issued a Line of Duty (LOD).” A LOD determines duty status and eligibility for⁤ medical care ‍and ‍military status in the National Guard. “I was basically ⁤told that I was ​on my own and they wished me⁤ good luck.”

At the time, a flight physical had also revealed high blood pressure ⁤and arrhythmia. Despite ongoing issues of sleep apnea, migraines, and an occasional loss of vision, MSgt. Buckley was also told that​ a LOD would not‌ be initiated because​ the symptoms were not related to any physical ​injury while in⁣ service.

However, ​MSgt. Buckley attributes the migraines to ‌2003 and⁢ 2005 deployments to Iraq and a 2017 deployment to the East African country of Djibouti. “In 2005, I was exposed to burn pits which ​caused ‍neurological issues and the migraines,” he‌ said. In 2017, “migraine​ attacks” became worse. Djibouti and Iraq are nations listed on the Veterans‍ Affairs Burn Pit and⁤ Environmental Hazards registries. Open-air burn pits have been ⁣specifically linked ‌by the National Institute ⁣of ‍Health⁤ to neurological conditions, ⁣as well as a ‍host of various cancers.

“I didn’t want to ⁤file ‍a formal complaint​ or get anyone in trouble, ‌but‍ after going back and ⁢forth over my injuries and the failure to initiate a LOD, I called the Inspector General on my‌ base and shared my problem,” he said. “Finally, it ‌was determined that my shoulder injury was an aggravation of a previous injury.” A LOD for his shoulder had to be initiated as a ​result.

MSgt. Buckley ⁣was informed‍ that the process could take up⁢ to 30 days to be awarded a LOD.⁢ “Thirty days⁢ passed,” he ‌said, explaining that his paperwork was ‍not ⁣submitted properly. “At⁤ the​ time, I ⁤was getting help ‌for some mental health issues, ‍and⁤ because they dropped the ball on my paperwork,⁤ I was starting to feel ⁣abandoned and anxious because they held ​my future⁤ in their hands.”

Seeking⁣ Help

Reaching “a breaking point,” MSgt. Buckley reached out ⁤in ⁣desperation to Chief⁤ Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass and Sen.⁢ Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Despite feeling like he was “public enemy​ number ⁢one” ‍for reaching out‌ to CMSgt. Bass, ‌Sen. Rubio’s office helped remedy the situation. “I went back on orders,” he said, but only for⁤ treatment‌ of⁤ his shoulder injury. MSgt. Buckley was denied⁤ LOD ‍initiation for his other conditions,‍ and ‍therefore denied treatment.

“I had my shoulder surgery in May 2021, ​and started physical therapy‍ at Tyndall ⁤Air Force base [in Florida]” he said. “During one of the passive range of‌ motion exercises, a physical therapy assistant bent my arm ⁣back behind my head and‌ I ​felt my should pop and it was ⁣torn.” The ⁢physical therapy assistant (PTA) was impaired‍ by means of alcohol during Buckley’s time ‌of treatment, and‍ after injuring MSgt. Buckley, he‌ entered an alcohol treatment program. According to ​MSgt. Buckley, ‍the PTA⁣ should have been removed ⁤from care, but he ‍was allowed to continue to practice on MSgt. Buckley ‌and others.

“Tyndall kept​ telling‍ me it was scar⁤ tissue that popped and I ⁢was healing, but I ⁣kept telling them my shoulder was torn again but no⁢ one was listening,” he said. “Telling me my shoulder⁣ was ‍fine, they stopped⁤ scheduling me for appointments.” ⁤Msgt. Buckley was denied appointments after reporting the impaired provider. As a result⁢ of the clinic ‍refusing to schedule new appointments,⁢ MSgt.‍ Buckley was terminated from ⁣active duty on Medical Continuation orders.

‘Abandoned’

MSgt. ⁢Buckley was given a 20 percent VA disability rating ‍for⁤ compensation for his shoulder injury. Numerous other health⁣ issues were not‍ issued‍ a rating.

He appealed this decision to Col. Linda Hoover, Secretary of the Air Force ⁣Personnel Council. “Although,” he said, “my appeal was denied because I, Jim Buckley, did not provide sufficient compelling evidence to​ overturn their determination.” As a result, he said, “Right there,⁣ again, this​ is a ​violation of DODI, because ‌it states that⁤ the Secretary of the Air ⁤Force must use clear and unmistakable⁤ evidence to overcome ‌the presumption.”

According to Mr. Sorenson,‍ “MSgt. Buckley’s government ⁣provided⁢ counsel failed to‌ submit MSgt. Buckley’s complete contentions ⁣to the Air ‌Force in ​his ⁤final appeal, which indicates a ⁤serious breach of⁤ responsibility and might create a legal⁢ dilemma for the U.S. Air Force because it appears⁣ that his counsel⁢ may have been working⁢ against⁢ him to cover for the government’s misconduct.”

As a result, MSgt.‍ Buckley said, “Once ​again, I​ have the Inspector General involved, deciding my fate right now on the benefits I should be eligible for that could alter the course of my life.”

Through this whole process, MSgt. Buckley ‍said he “has ‍been abandoned by the DOD.” According to him, “Only one organization has stepped in to help, [and] that organization is USJAG.” He said, ​“Through the help ⁢of their Guard/Reserve Representative, Jeremy Sorenson, they have ​fought back‌ against the injustices ​in the National Guard and Air Force.”

According to Mr. Sorenson: “The Air ​Force rampantly ⁤violates their own ⁢regulations ​and federal law to deny disability benefits, [and] they make the suffering service member⁤ fight with⁤ their​ hands ⁢tied behind their back to attain medical‍ care and benefits they are ‌entitled to by law, especially those with PTSD or other ⁣mental health issues.”

“It wears ​the member and their ‍family down,” ‌said⁣ Mr. Sorenson. “This‌ has ‍hurt thousands of‍ Airmen, [and] it’s disgusting ⁤and really just⁤ unconscionable.”

For Msgt. Buckley,⁣ “It’s a ‍lonely road to walk when you ​are fighting against the Big Air Force.” According to him, “They can do whatever ‍they want, violate whatever law ⁣or policy they ⁤want with impunity ‍because Senior Leadership ⁢covers for each other.”

“When I’d ⁤lost hope,‌ USJAG stepped in, and⁤ I feel like I⁤ have a way forward. I am ⁢not just fighting for‌ myself, I⁣ am fighting so these injustices are not perpetrated on my brothers and ​sisters. I ​am dug in and prepared for the long fight; it has never been in me to just give up.”

MSgt. Buckley’s final appeal to the Secretary of the Air​ Force was denied on Sept. 27,⁤ 2023. He ‌will be ⁢forced to ⁢retire⁢ without a ‍medical retirement. His fight‌ will continue with the filing ⁤of a Board of​ Corrections for Military Records appeal. If he‌ is unsuccessful, he said⁢ he is prepared to‌ bring suit against the DOD.

The Department of Defense did not return an ⁣inquiry from The ⁢Epoch Times.

‌ How can potential sources of toxic exposure impact the long-term‌ health effects of service members?

Sted as potential sources of ⁤toxic exposure and long-term health effects.

MSgt. Buckley has‌ sought assistance from the Air Force, reaching​ out to various individuals and offices, including the Office of the Inspector General. However, his efforts have⁤ been met with little response or⁣ support. “The current culture in the Air Force, in my opinion, is to just keep pushing forward and not ⁣acknowledge or‌ address any issues,” he ⁤expressed.

This ⁤lack of​ support adds to⁢ the frustration and stress that service members ⁣like MSgt. Buckley often face when dealing with service-related health issues. The physical demands and risks associated with ‌military service can take a toll on⁣ the body, and it is⁤ crucial for the military to ⁤provide adequate support and care for ⁢those ‌who have sacrificed their well-being in service to their country.

Furthermore, ignoring and dismissing the concerns of service members regarding their health can have serious consequences, both ⁢for the individual‍ and for the overall effectiveness of⁤ the military. It creates an environment where service members may hesitate to report injuries or seek medical help for fear​ of being ignored or penalized, ultimately compromising their ability to perform their duties effectively.

It is essential that the Air Force and other branches⁤ of the military prioritize ⁤the health and well-being of their service members.⁤ This includes properly addressing ‌and investigating service-related injuries​ and providing the necessary support and resources for recovery and rehabilitation.

MSgt. Buckley’s case highlights the need for a more comprehensive ⁣and compassionate approach to handling service-related health issues. ‌It is⁤ important for the military to establish clear protocols and procedures for reporting and‍ addressing injuries, as​ well as avenues for service members to seek assistance and advocate for their rights and well-being.

Service members like‍ MSgt. Buckley ‍should not be left to fend for themselves when it comes to their health and⁢ well-being. They deserve⁣ the support and ​recognition for their​ service ​and sacrifices. It is time for the Air Force and the military as a whole to prioritize the health and welfare of their service members and ensure that they receive the care and assistance they need and⁤ deserve.

Failure to do so ‌not only ⁣undermines the trust and morale ‍of the military‌ but also‍ fails to uphold the commitment to the well-being of ⁣those ⁢who have dedicated their lives to serving ‍and protecting their country.

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