Military allegedly pressured medical personnel to downgrade soldiers' diagnoses
US military officers pressured Army medical personnel not to diagnose soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder in an apparent effort to save money and reduce benefits, according to an investigation published Wednesday.
Interviews conducted by Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna for Salon revealed that at least two Army medical personnel say they've been pressured by higher-ups to avoid giving wounded soldiers post traumatic stress diagnoses.
Concerned that he had been misdiagnosed, an unidentified Army sergeant surreptitiously recorded his military psychologist as he told him "in a moment of candor" that he'd been advised to give him a lesser diagnosis.
"OK," Fort Carson psychologist Douglas McNinch told the sergeant. "I will tell you something confidentially that I would have to deny if it were ever public. Not only myself, but all the clinicians up here are being pressured to not diagnose PTSD and diagnose anxiety disorder NOS [instead]." McNinch said Army medical boards were "kick[ing] back" PTSD diagnoses, saying soldiers had not seen enough trauma.
"Unfortunately," McNinch continued, according to the recording, "yours has not been the only case ... I and other [doctors] are under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD. It's not fair. I think it's a horrible way to treat soldiers, but unfortunately, you know, now the V.A. is jumping on board, saying, 'Well, these people don't have PTSD,' and stuff like that."
McNinch answered questions when contacted by the reporters but when told that they'd obtained the tape, said he'd deny that the conversations ever occurred. Unfortunately for McNinch, they published the tape.
A second Army psychiatrist, recently retired but still employed by the government, also told Benjamin and de Yonna that he'd been told not to inform soldiers they had PTSD and instead diagnose them with disorders that "would reduce their benefits."
"The psychiatrist said he would be willing to say more publicly about the cases and provide specific names, but only if President Obama would protect him from retaliation," Benjamin and De Yonna wrote.
Why is the Army writing off PTSD diagnoses? A former Army psychologist who now chairs a Texas university psychology department explained:
"Each diagnosis is an acknowledgment that psychiatric casualties are a huge price tag of this war," David Rudd was quoted as saying. "It is easiest to dismiss these casualties because you can't see the wounds. If they change the diagnosis they can dismiss you at a substantially decreased rate."
Benjamin and de Yonna said they'd contacted the Army and the Senate Armed Services Committee about the recording in which McNinch admitted he was being pressured by military brass. Both declined to investigate.
More details, including that of the attack that left the anonymous sergeant traumatized, are available at Salon.
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