Sunday, February 3, 2008

Penalizing PTSD

We have just successfully intervened on behalf of another soldier at Fort Hood, TX. He joined the Army when he was 19 and was trained as a medic. He served a year in Iraq as a combat medic and returned with PTSD. Prior to his return, he was a good, reliable soldier. He was promoted to the rank of E-4 and was the personal medic to a major while in Iraq. He was also exposed to numerous explosions and suffered several concussions while in Iraq.

Private X is a soft-spoken and unimposing young man. Since returning from Iraq, he was diagnosed with PTSD and put on Celexa and Seroquel to help him with his depression and anxiety. His Army psychiatrist told his chain of command not to send him to the national training center, but they ordered him to go anyway. He felt ridiculed and ostracized for seeking help, resorting to alcohol and marijuana as "treatment", ultimately failing a urinalysis test. He also went AWOL for 20 days (to drive home to see his mother). He was stripped of his rank, had to forfeit more than half of his pay, and given a seven day duty schedule.

Although he was diagnosed with PTSD by the military doctors, his chain of command decided to initiate a chapter 14(a)(c) discharge (general) for his post-deployment misconduct. They told him that his recent misconduct undid any right he had to care for his PTSD. MSC intervened to stop the chapter and to have this soldier placed in the Warrior Transition Unit for evaluation and treatment instead--which should had happened in JULY when he was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. If his chain of command had acted appropriately last summer, this soldier would not have had to self-medicate and his misconduct would most likely not have occurred.

Additionally, we believe he may have an undiagnosed and untreated TBI. In the time that I spent with him, I noticed mental confusion and memory loss pertaining to conversations that we had, which is not consistent, I suspect, with the cognitive abilities of a medic. His unit says he was screened for a TBI, but he asserts that he was not.

MSC was able to stop the discharge and have Private X placed in the Warrior Transition Unit. He has been told he is going to be given a medical discharge now instead. Pending the medical discharge, he will be receiving comprehensive treatment for his PTSD.

The problem with existing DoD regulations is that the commanders are not required to follow the recommendations of the doctors who are evaluating and/or treating our returning wounded warriors. MSC is going to be approaching members of Congress to change that.