Can US troops wear third-party body armor?

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In August 2007, Arkansas Fourth District Representative Mike Ross sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army requesting clarification.  Secretary of the Army Pete Geren formally acknowledged in September that insurance and medical benefits would not be withheld if combat injuries (or death) were sustained while a service member was wearing unauthorized body armor.  Nevertheless, Secretary Geren went on to add that “every Soldier, regardless of rank, is required to use/wear U.S. government approved equipment, such as the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) system.”

In order to clear up any possible misunderstanding, Arkansas Representative Mike Ross again sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense requesting further clarification.  In a letter dated what appears to be November 2, 2010, Clifford L. Stanley on behalf of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) responded as follows:

QUOTE  (Bold highlights added by SFTT)

Dear Representative Ross:

Thank you for your letter dated October 13, 2010, regarding the upcoming deployment of the Arkansas’ 39th Brigade Combat Team and the impact of body armor worn on benefits.  This issue falls under the purview of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), and I have been asked to respond.

As you allude to in your letter, rumors regarding Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SOLI) payments and Department of Defense medical care as it relates to battle injuries or death when wearing commercially procured (Dragon Skin) body armor arise on occasion.  Eligible benefits and medical support associated with SGLI or the Department of Defense (DoD) are paid or provided if a member is injured or killed in action while wearing commercially purchased body armor.  The DoD Will not discriminate, as it relates to military health care, between Service members who wear government issued or commercially purchased body armor.

Title 38, United States Code, is the statutory authority for the portfolio of SGLI products (SGLI, SGLI Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI),  Family SGLI, etc.) for which the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is responsible.  Department of Defense staff consulted with VA and reaffirmed that wearing unapproved body armor, in and of itself, does not disqualify members for SGLI or TSGLI payments. Additionally, the question of privately purchase body armor is addressed on the VA’s myths and rumors website (web address follows):

Medical benefits, as with SGLI payments, are not contingent on the type of body armor worn by Service members.  The Services do not seek reimbursement for medical expenses connected to members wounded in combat when wearing commercially procured body armor.

Thank you for your concern in this matter, and for your support of the Service and family members of the 39th Brigade Combat Team.


Clifford L. Stanley


A facsimile of Mr. Stanley’s letter on third-party body armor may be downloaded from the SFTT website.

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