Blog — Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

February 27, 2012

Under-Diagnosing PTSD – A Systemic Problem

By Anne L. Weismann

Veterans Affairs logoAn article in Saturday’s New York Times revealed the plight of Captain Susan Carlson, a behavioral health professional and soldier in the Army who was sent home from Afghanistan with a diagnosis of personality disorder.  Not only is such a diagnosis fatal to any hope of future employment, but it seems to have been made to avoid the more costly diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  We’ve seen this game before.

In 2008, an email from a Veterans Administration employee indicated the agency was instructing doctors to diagnose veterans with adjustment disorder rather than PTSD to save money.  CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the VA and ultimately sued the agency to uncover the extent of the problem.  At every turn, the VA has attempted to stymie our investigation and has denied such practices, insisting its health professionals properly diagnose patients.  Nearly four years into the litigation, the VA continues to tell an ever-changing story about what documents it has and why, frustrating CREW’s efforts to get to the bottom of this mess.

Click here to view CREW's lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs.

With this new evidence of similar practices in the Army, we have further confirmation the under-diagnosis of PTSD is a systemic problem.  Just as troubling, the Army – like the VA – can’t own up to its own bad conduct.

We ask our soldiers to put themselves in harm’s way every day.  They come back from battle with serious mental health problems.  Yet our military ignores their problems, preferring to sweep them under the rug as it seeks out the cheapest way to treat returning soldiers, even at the cost of their mental and physical health.  It is time we held our government accountable for the appalling way it is letting our soldiers down.  Those who suffer injuries – whether physical or mental – while serving their country must be offered the full range of care they so desperately need and deserve.

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