News Releases

Murray Presses Army Secretary on Handling of the Mental Wounds of War

Mar 21 2012

At Hearing of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Veterans Chairman Murray pressed Army Secretary John McHugh on troubled PTSD unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and whether similar problems exist at other bases

Hearing comes as new information reveals a Madigan Army Medical Center screening team reversed more than 40% of the PTSD diagnoses since 2007

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, questioned Army Secretary John McHugh on recent shortcomings in the Army’s efforts to properly diagnose and treat the invisible wounds of war. Specifically, Murray discussed the forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord that is under investigation for changing mental health diagnoses based on the cost of providing care and benefits to servicemembers. The Army is currently reevaluating nearly 300 service members and veterans who have had their PTSD diagnoses changed by that unit since 2007.

Key excerpt of Sen. Murray’s remarks:

“Secretary McHugh, as you and I have discussed, Joint Base Lewis McChord in my home state is facing some very real questions on the way they have diagnosed PTSD and the invisible wounds of war. And today, unfortunately, we are seeing more information on the extent of those problems.

“Mr. Secretary, this is a copy of today’s Seattle Times. In it is an article based on the most recent review of the Forensic Psychiatry Department at JBLM which – as you know - is under investigation for taking the cost of mental health care into account in their decisions.

“And what it shows is that since that unit was stood up in 2007 over 40% of those servicemembers who walked in the door with a PTSD diagnosis had their diagnosis changed to something else or overturned entirely.

“What it says is that over 4 in 10 of our service members – many who were already being treated for PTSD - and were due the benefits and care that comes with that diagnoses - had it taken away by this unit. And that they were then sent back into the force or the local community.

“Now, in light of all the tragedies we have seen that stem from the untreated, invisible wounds of war – I’m sure that you would agree that this is very concerning.

“Not only is it damaging for these soldiers, but it also furthers the stigma for others that are deciding whether to seek help for behavioral health problems.”