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Sen. Murray nudges Panetta to speed up Pentagon review of PTSD diagnoses

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Oct. 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
October 19, 2012 2:06 pm

Sen. Patty Murray today nudged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to provide more information about what resulted from his call for a military-wide review of post-traumatic stress diagnoses.

Panetta called for that review in the wake of a controversy last winter at Madigan Army Medical Center in which veterans complained that a forensic psychiatry team at the hospital changed their post-traumatic stress diagnoses in such a way that soldiers received fewer disability benefits. Some veterans feared the hospital was changing diagnoses to save money.

The Army has since reviewed hundreds of cases of soldiers who passed through Madigan, revising some diagnoses to post-traumatic stress.

Panetta in June called for the military-wide review. He visited Naval Base Kitsap in August and told The News Tribune the studies were still underway.

Murray said the Defense Department’s progress appears to have stalled.

“The Department must act with a sense of urgency in order to complete this review and to act on its findings in coordinating with other ongoing efforts to improve the disability evaluation system,” Murray wrote to Panetta in a letter she released today. “Each of these efforts is vital in ensuring service members truly have a transparent, consistent, and expeditious disability evaluation process.”

The initial complaints at Madigan led the Army to place hospital commander Col. Dallas Homas on an administrative leave for several months. He was reinstated to his command in July after an investigation found that he did not “exert any undue influence over PTSD diagnoses.”

The Army has not released that investigation. The News Tribune has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for the report and others linked to the complaints at Madigan.

The Army also has terminated the forensic psychiatry program at Madigan, saying that practice has merit but is “simply not optimal for the unique cases that the Army diagnoses and reviews.” The forensic psychiatry program was once endorsed as “best practices” for Army medicine because it would provide a higher degree of accuracy in behavioral health diagnoses.

Matt McAlvanaugh, Murray’s spokesman, said the Army expects to conclude the reviews of Madigan patients soon.

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