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Defense secretary again expands review in military PTSD diagnoses

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on June 13, 2012 at 11:12 am |
June 13, 2012 11:12 am

The Defense Department on Wednesday announced that it again would expand its review of post-traumatic stress diagnoses dating back to the start of the war in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today said the review would include all branches of the armed forces. Previously, the review was to focus only on the Army.

Panetta’s announcement is the latest investigation into PTSD diagnoses since the Office of the Surgeon General began investigating a team of forensic psychiatrists at Madigan Army Medical Center that sometimes changed behavioral health diagnoses among soldiers who were seeking medical retirements. Some of those soldiers had PTSD diagnoses adjusted in such a way that were less likely to receive disability benefits for behavioral health issues stemming from their combat experiences.

Hundreds of those soldiers are now have their cases reviewed by other Army psychiatrists. About 100 of them have since received PTSD diagnoses.

“Understandably, a lot of our service members trust and confidence in the disability evaluation system has been seriously shaken in the wake of these events,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Panetta at a hearing today.

She urged him to expand the Armywide review, and Panetta said he had made that request.

“I’m not satisfied either,” Panetta said. “We’re doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that’s a whole area we have to do much better on.”

There are several layers of investigations stemming from the complaints at Madigan. The Army has not released any findings to suggest that any of them are complete. Two doctors who had their clinical responsibilities suspended in the inquiries have since returned to working with patients, but in different positions.

The investigations included an Army I Corps investigation into the command climate set by Madigan’s Col. Dallas Homas and a similar investigation from the Western Regional Medical Command. The Office of the Surgeon General is leading the investigation into the Madigan diagnoses. The Defense Department Office of Inspector General has another investigation into diagnoses at Madigan and other hospitals.

About one in seven Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have sought treatment for behavioral health concerns at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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