Army veterans who fought in America's wars before 9/11 could learn in July if they will be eligible for the Combat Action Badge, the award established by Congress a decade ago to recognize non-infantry troops who engaged the enemy in combat.
A Defense Department panel is considering the change as part of an overall review of military awards and decorations ordered last year.
"Recommendations to the Secretary of Defense should be finalized by July," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said on Tuesday.
Congress ordered the Pentagon to look at making the CAB retroactive after legislation that would have extended eligibility to the start of World War II eligible failed to make it into the final version of the 2015 Defense bill.
The CAB was established in 2005 in recognition of the fact that many soldiers - regardless of their specialty - were coming under fire and engaging the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. These included countless men and women in support jobs and who came under fire during convoys.
The only troops specifically not eligible for the CAB are infantry soldiers and medics, who qualify for the Combat Infantryman Badge and Combat Medical Badge, respectively.
The country's largest veterans' organizations are already on record endorsing the change. The American Legion passed a national resolution in October 2006 stating that medal should be awarded to eligible soldiers who served since the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Legion resolution read, in part, that veterans in armor, artillery and combat engineers specialties, as well as other fields, had fought "with extreme courage valor and distinction" in the country's wars.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars passed its own resolution during its national convention in August, 2009, saying the current "eligibility criterion overlooks the thousands of veterans who made similar sacrifices in previous wars."
The Combat Infantryman Badge dates to World War II and has been awarded to soldiers bearing the infantry MOS in all subsequent wars and campaigns.
The Combat Medical Badge also came out of World War II, initially for medical personnel from any service branch who, while assigned to an Army infantry unit, carried out their duties while under fire.
In 1989, eligibility was extended to Special Forces troops with an 18D -- Special Operations Medical Sergeant - MOS, and two years later, to medical personnel assigned or attached to armor and ground cavalry units brigade-sized and smaller.
After the 9/11 attacks, CMB eligibility was extended again to medical personnel assigned, attached or under operational control of any brigade-size or smaller combat arms unit excluding aviation.
A year ago Hagel ordered a review of all Defense Department awards and decorations programs to ensure the military provides "avenues to appropriately recognize the service, sacrifices and actions of our service members."
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org