Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Thursday “we don’t have a system that is set up” to care for all of the military members who are returning from war and that if they have problems and don’t get treated “the fallout is enormous” for them and their communities.
“We have many, many soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, more than we have in the past, and we don’t have a system that is set up for them. That’s why I have been screaming and yelling about this,” Murray said in an interview.
“My biggest worry is the soldier or Marine or Air Force (member) comes home, has problems, doesn’t get treated, doesn’t get help, goes out into the community, and the fallout is enormous – everything, to suicide,” she said.
Murray is concerned that service members are not receiving care that is promised to them from the Veterans Administration.
“I heard from too many veterans that they called up (the VA), takes a lot of courage to do it, to get an appointment to help them with the problems that they were having, and they were told that they had to wait three, four or five months,” Murray said. “They are supposed to be seen within two weeks.
“The VA was telling me that they were being seen within two weeks, but the investigation that we put in place has shown that many of them are waiting 50, 60, 70 days,” Murray said.
A congressional investigation is ongoing.
Murray said she believes there was “a concern about money” at the Madigan Army Medical Center near Tacoma when it was reversing many patient diagnoses ofpost-traumatic stress disorder.
The Army Surgeon General’s Office recently issued new guidelines for diagnosing PTSD after Madigan came under congressional and Army investigation for overturning the PTSD diagnoses of more than 300 patients during the past five years. Murray spearheaded the congressional review.
Asked about the cases at Madigan, Murray said in an interview, “Well, I think at Madigan there was a concern about money, which they should not have had. Their job was to diagnose mental health and PTSD and make sure that people got treated as they should be.”
Dr. William Keppler, former leader of the Madigan screening team, said that a PTSD diagnosis could cost as much as $1.5 million over the lifetime of a soldier.
Murray said, “What I heard from many soldiers was that they were diagnosed with PTSD while they were in the military, they were being treated for it, and then when they were coming out of the military into the civilian world, their diagnosis was reversed, and they were told that they were lying, that they were a malingerer, and, specifically, some were told that they were saving money. That’s just so wrong!”
The soldiers and veterans whose PTSD diagnoses were reversed are now being re-examined.