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CAB for past conflicts? 5 things you should know

The Army created the Combat Action Badge in 2005 to honor those who'd engaged or been engaged by enemy forces during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but weren't eligible for similar awards available to medics or infantrymen. It was made retroactive to Sept. 18, 2001, but since shortly after its founding, lawmakers and veterans groups have pushed to send it back much farther — to the outbreak of World War II.

Results of that review are expected in July, Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in an email, confirming a March 31 report. Here's what you need to know about the push for a CAB for older veterans:

1 Seeking recognition. Nugent picked up the legislative ball from his predecessor in Florida's 11th district, Ginny Brown-Waite, who had introduced retroactive CAB legislation as far back as 2007. The district has about 100,000 veterans, Nugent said, some of whom have told him "they were disappointed that they didn't qualify for that award."

"These guys, particularly from Vietnam, there's a number of them who weren't in the infantry, but were involved in combat, so they wouldn't get the Combat Infantry Badge," Nugent said. "They want to be recognized."

2 Long-time support. The American Legion issued resolution in October 2006 backing the proposal, saying that veterans who saw combat but didn't earn the CIB or the Combat Medical Badge "have served without due recognition and are deserving of a badge signifying their courage and valor under fire while serving in the armed forces of the United States."

The Veterans of Foreign Wars issued a similar resolution in 2009.

3 Eligibility issues. Who would merit a retroactive CAB, and how would they prove it? Army Human Resources Command wouldn't comment on the proposal, but current CAB awards rely on witness statements and paperwork that may prove difficult for long-separated service members to obtain.

The 60-year eligibility period could result in applications from tens of thousands of former soldiers. Ted Stroup, a retired Army lieutenant general and former Army G1, told Army Times in 2008 that the award confirmation process would be a "horrendous undertaking."

4 Cost vs. benefit. The proposal is "revenue-neutral" in the eyes of Congress — those who would earn a CAB would have to buy it themselves — but the man-hours involved in confirming eligibility requests could prove costly. Nugent believes the process is worth it to honor past generations of combat vets.

"There is a vetting process for the Army to sign off, and I get that, but that amount of work is something that we owe back to these guys," he said.

5 Other awards. The CAB issue is one of several being considered by the DoD review, which was prompted by fierce debate over the Distinguished Warfare Medal, an honor designed primarily for drone operators and others who effect the combat zone from a distance. It was initially placed ahead of the Bronze Star Medal in the order of preference; Hagel, a former infantryman who was wounded in Vietnam, scrapped the award early in his SECDEF tenure.

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