SEATTLE – The Army has identified 285 more patients at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state who had their diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder reversed by a forensic psychiatry team in the past five years.
The Seattle Times reported Wednesday (http://is.gd/04Dai5 ) that the patients will be given the option of having their cases reviewed once again to determine if they suffer from PTSD,
Soldiers who are diagnosed with PTSD can qualify for a medical retirement that offers a pension and other benefits. The Army is investigating whether Madigan doctors who reviewed PTSD diagnoses were influenced by concerns about the cost of providing such benefits.
Madigan staff involved in the screening have denied there was command pressure to limit disability awards, the newspaper reported.
The 285 soldiers were identified from a review of 1,500 soldiers screened by the forensic team since 2007 for all types of mental health conditions, the Army said. The total number of PTSD evaluations done by the team during that period was not provided. The Army's Western Regional Medical Command said release of that information would be premature while those records are reviewed by investigators.
Madigan's screeners for PTSD were removed from that duty last month while the Army Medical Command investigates why diagnoses were changed.
Also last month, the Army removed Madigan's commander while the investigation proceeds.
"This is a common practice during ongoing investigations and nothing more," Maj. Gen. Phillip Volpe, who heads the Western Regional Medical Command, said earlier about the removal of Col. Dallas Homas.
The investigation was started in January, following complaints from soldiers whose PTSD diagnoses had been reversed. Seventeen soldiers contested their cases, and six had their diagnoses reinstated by doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
PTSD is a condition that results from experiencing or seeing a traumatic event, such as a battlefield casualty. Symptoms can include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, irritability and feeling distant from other people.
Soldiers are often diagnosed with PTSD as they move through the Army medical system. The forensic team at Madigan was charged with making a final diagnostic review of soldiers under consideration for retirement.
Madigan is located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, about 30 miles south of Seattle, which has sent tens of thousands of soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com