A recent RAND Corporation study reported that one in five returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan experiences post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Sufferers of PTSD characteristically have "lived through a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless." PTSD patients are often suicidal, and a misdiagnosis can prevent appropriate care.
On March 20, Norma Perez, team leader and psychologist at the Temple, Texas, Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center, sent an e-mail (below) to medical workers asking them to "refrain" from diagnosing veterans with PTSD. The facility PTSD program coordinator wrote that, due to the increase in "compensation-seeking veterans," social workers and psychologists should consider ruling out PTSD and instead render a diagnosis of the less-serious "adjustment disorder." Perez warned colleagues that "there have been some incidence [sic]" where veterans receiving non-PTSD-level compensation and pension appeal their cases "based on our assessment." (According to the Veterans Benefit Administration, PTSD "qualifies as a disability" entitling a veteran to an "improved pension.")
Perez's "suggestion" was offered partly because "we really don't … have time to do the extensive testing that should be done" in order to diagnose PTSD. After her e-mail was forwarded to VoteVets.org and released last week, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake announced the e-mail was "inappropriate" and declared it "repudiated." Perez, meantime, has been "counseled and is extremely apologetic."
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