SFC Anthony Venetz and his wife's fight for a "line of duty"

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SFC Anthony Venetz and his wife's fight for a "line of duty"

A very long and yet interesting read from Stars and Stripes today.

In the eight years that her husband deployed repeatedly to Iraq and Afghanistan, she learned to be good at not having him around. So when the knock came to tell her that Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz wouldn’t make it back from Afghanistan that last time, she was prepared, even in her grief, to pick up the pieces.

It wasn't bad enough she lost her husband and the father to her two children, it actually got worse from there:

Last month, 5½ years after Anthony’s death and five years after the Army ruled that his accidental overdose in Afghanistan was “not in the line of the duty,” an Army review board reversed that finding.

A “not in the line of duty” ruling has severe consequences on families of deceased servicemembers, and the Army makes those determinations infrequently. If a soldier dies while serving, particularly in a combat zone, he or she is presumed to have died “in the line of duty” or while in service to their country. Even most suicides are considered “in the line of duty.” Their families are eligible for benefits based on the length of service and salary.

The original line of duty report came from a Major who had never done one of those reports, and only had 7 days to do it.  And recreational drug use doesn't exactly fit his situation at the time:

He barely had time to recover from the September 2010 incident when he was wounded a second time on Nov. 30, 2010. His vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Pretty rattled, he was treated for a concussion and a perforated eardrum, then released as he prepared to travel home.

Records and testimony show that he was still suffering from headaches so severe they induced vomiting. He also had a bad cough, and his leg was still causing him pain. “Beaten up” was how one colleague at Camp Montrond described him.

The night before he died, he went to the team surgeon with congestion and a fever, according to the investigation. He was alive at 10 a.m. the next day but was found dead at about 12:30 p.m. Mucinex and the cough medicine the doctor had given him were by his bed.

No other drugs or packaging were found. The autopsy revealed a deadly combination of opiates, a class of tranquilizers known as benzodiazepines and marijuana in his bloodstream. There was no indication of previous drug use, and a pathologist determined it was a one-time event.

Go and read the whole thing, since I don't want to take any more of Stripes' story, but it is fairly interesting if long.  I hope they reconsider the LOD on this one, because it certainly appears that most everyone believes he didn't accidentally overdose.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.