Monday, January 22, 2018

Army Reviews Post-Traumatic Stress Diagnoses

WASHINGTON — The Army on Wednesday launched a review of its handling of post-traumatic stress disorder and other behavioral health evaluations at all of its medical facilities since 2001, in response to fears that some soldiers had their diagnoses reversed because of the costs of caring for them.

The review, ordered by Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, follows disclosures that some soldiers found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder had that diagnosis rejected during subsequent evaluations at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

In reviewing those evaluations, Army investigators have found cases in which "the original PTSD diagnoses were more accurate," according to an Army statement.

The Army will review diagnoses and evaluations made at all of its medical facilities.

Army leaders also have ordered an independent review by the service's inspector general into whether the disability evaluation system affects the behavioral health diagnoses given to soldiers and whether the command climate or other nonmedical factors affect the diagnoses, according to information given Wednesday to members of Congress.

The diagnoses are the first step in evaluating the amount of disability benefits a soldier receives.

In addition, the Army auditor general has been ordered to audit the Army Medical Command Ombudsman Program.

"The Army clearly realizes they have a nationwide, systematic problem on their hands," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, who requested the review at Lewis-McChord. "I credit them with taking action, but it will be essential that this vast and truly historic review is done the right way."

The Army's review of 400 cases at Lewis-McChord has led to more than 100 service members having their PTSD diagnoses restored.

The controversy stems from the work of a special forensic psychiatric team that in 2007 began evaluating mental health diagnoses of service members preparing to leave the military. The screening team reversed at least 290 PTSD diagnoses made by the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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