Veterans Hospital Told to Stop Diagnosing Iraq War Soldiers with PTSD

Monday, August 25, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: PTSD, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) The post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coordinator for a Texas veterans hospital sent an email to facility staff suggesting that they stop diagnosing returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with PTSD.

"Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," wrote psychologist Norma J. Perez in an email to the staff of the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Texas.

Saying that Veterans Affairs (VA) staffers "really don't ... have the time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez suggested that they should instead "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

Veterans diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder receive significantly less in the way of disability and health care benefits than those diagnosed with PTSD. An estimated 300,000 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans are currently suffering from either PTSD or severe depression, according to a recent report by the Rand Corp.

"VA staff across the country are working their hearts out to get our veterans the care they need and deserve," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington. "But emails like these make their jobs far more difficult."

VA Secretary James Peake said that Perez acted inappropriately and without the knowledge or direction of the agency. The psychologist's actions are "repudiated at the highest level of our health care organization," he said.

Rep. Bob Filner, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, expressed skepticism and asked Peake for further explanation.

"Where is she getting it from?" Filner asked. "Why is she saying this? Who is giving her the order?"

The VA has also drawn criticism recently for internal emails suggesting that information be concealed on the number of returning veterans who have committed suicide. Estimates suggest that this number may be as high as 18 per day.

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