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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Salon Investigation: Army Doctors Pressured Not to Diagnose PTSD, Senate Armed Services Committee Refuses to Look Into Matter

And now, back to reality.

After my glowing post yesterday, nodding to the many Army generals nudging military culture into the 21st century by admitting that anyone can and does get PTSD, it doesn't take long for things to come crashing back down to reality.

Michael de Yoanna and Mark Benjamin for Salon:

For more than a year he's been seeking treatment at Fort Carson for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the Iraq war. Sgt. X is also suffering through the Army's confusing disability payment system, handled by something called a medical evaluation board. The process of negotiating the system has been made harder by his war-damaged memory. Sgt. X's wife has to go with him to doctor's appointments so he'll remember what the doctor tells him.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor's appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn't accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected -- that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments.

And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation -- and cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

Fort Carson, you may recall, was the site of a major scandal in 2006-2007 when first the Colorado Springs Independent (CSIndy) and CBS News reported in July 2006 that some troops were receiving abuse rather than proper treatment for their reintegration issues and/or PTSD after returning from Iraq. In December 2006, NPR broke the story even wider; Senate investigations followed.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

For a look at today's brewing scandal, be sure to listen to the tape, and read the entire Salon piece, which contains a rough transcript of the conversation and much more information. The work is so important, that rather than quote any more from it, I would urge everyone to read it in full. Tomorrow, Salon will run a companion piece with more details on this developing controversy. Be sure to keep an eye out for that one, too.

In February, de Yoanna and Benjamin presented a series of reports on related problems at Fort Carson. Once your blood pressure is in check after reading their current reportage, be sure to check in with their "Coming Home" series.

I promise you it won't make you feel better.

If you are aware of a soldier who has served or is serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts and is having trouble getting a PTSD diagnosis or proper benefits, please contact Mark Benjamin at mbenjamin (at) salon (dot) com.

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