CREW and Votevets.org Ask House Armed Service to Investigate Army Misdiagnoses of Service Members and Veterans With PTSD

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Naomi Seligman (CREW) 202.408.5565

Eric Schmeltzer (VoteVets.org) 646.290.8586

CREW and Votevets.org Ask House Armed Service to Investigate Army Misdiagnoses of Service Members and Veterans With PTSD

WASHINGTON - In light of news reports that the Army has instituted the
cost-cutting practice of ordering doctors to misdiagnose soldiers
returning from battle with anxiety disorder rather than post traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington (CREW) and VoteVets.org today asked the chair of the House
Armed Services Committee to investigate the extent of this outrageous
practice.

Last month, Salon.com reported on a series of conversations
at Fort Carson last summer between a sergeant and his psychologist, Dr.
Douglas McNinch, during which the doctor admitted he was under pressure
from the Army to avoid diagnosing soldiers with PTSD. The sergeant, who
taped his conversations because he suffers from memory problems due to
brain injuries, met with Dr. McNinch to learn why the doctor had told
the medical evaluation board responsible for the Army's disability
payment system that the sergeant suffered from anxiety disorder rather
than PTSD. Dr. McNinch explained, on tape, "I will tell you something
confidentially that I would have to deny if it were ever public. Not
only myself, but all clinicians up here are being pressured not to
diagnose PTSD and diagnose anxiety disorder NOS instead." Dr. McNinch
continued, "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 . . ." Dr. McNinch
has explained he was pressured to misdiagnose PTSD cases by a colonel,
who was then head of Fort Carson's Department of Behavioral Health.

With a diagnosis of anxiety disorder, the sergeant would receive
substantially lower benefits upon a discharge for a disability.

Despite these recorded conversations the Army refused to take any
action, relying instead on its own seriously flawed internal
investigation. Salon.com revealed that when Gen. Richard
Cody, then vice-chief of staff, met with the sergeant's legal
representatives last July, he stated, "There is no one in leadership
telling doctors to do this . . . This is not Army policy." Two weeks
later, the Army formally completed its internal investigation
concluding that none of the Army's medical staff had attempted to
influence or coerce the outcome of clinical evaluations. The Army's
investigative report admitted, however, that there are "potential
systemic pressures" that "may lead providers to avoid making a
diagnosis of PTSD...contrary to their clinical judgment." Neither the
sergeant who taped his conversation with Dr. McNinch, nor the Army
officer Dr. McNinch identified as pressuring him to misdiagnose
soldiers was interviewed.

CREW and VoteVets.org are asking the House Committee to investigate
because the Senate Armed Services Committee refused to do so.

The refusal to diagnose PTSD may be a systemic problem throughout
the military. As exposed last year by CREW and VoteVets.org, and
through a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Veterans'
Affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs has also pressured health
professionals to diagnose adjustment disorder rather than PTSD in
soldiers returning from war.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today, "It is
outrageous that those who are supposed to take care of our service
members and veterans will so easily compromise their health. Attempting
to cut costs is reasonable, but changing diagnoses is not akin to
cutting coupons. Those who serve our nation so heroically deserve
better treatment."

"Talk to anyone who has served recently, and they can tell you they
have experienced an issue with a non or under-diagnosis of PTSD, or
know someone who has," said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of
VoteVets.org. "This is a problem we've all heard of in the Defense
Department and Veterans Affairs, and yet, there has yet to be a real
investigation of the issue. Chairman Skelton has a chance to do a real
service for those who serve in our military by investigating this issue
with the scrutiny it deserves."

Read CREW and VoteVets.org's letter to the House Armed Services Committee in the Related Documents section on the right.

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.

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