Is The Military Using Psychiatric Diagnoses To Keep Costs Down?

The War Within - Al Jazeera English, from April 2010

This has been going on for a while now. Diagnosing someone with a personality disorder means you can push someone out of the military with no benefits -- and more importantly in some cases, without the additional costs of treating them for PTSD, a very expensive diagnosis. This is only one of the reasons I am so very cynical about politicians who give moving speeches about "honoring our troops":

Capt. Susan Carlson was not a typical recruit when she volunteered for the Army in 2006 at the age of 50. But the Army desperately needed behavioral health professionals like her, so it signed her up.

Though she was, by her own account, “not a strong soldier,” she received excellent job reviews at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she counseled prisoners. But last year, Captain Carlson, a social worker, was deployed to Afghanistan with the Colorado National Guard and everything fell apart.

After a soldier complained that she had made sexually suggestive remarks, she was suspended from her counseling duties and sent to an Army psychiatrist for evaluation. His findings were shattering: She had, he said in a report, a personality disorder, a diagnosis that the military has used to discharge thousands of troops. She was sent home.

She disputed the diagnosis, but it was not until months later that she found what seemed powerful ammunition buried in her medical file, portions of which she provided to The New York Times. “Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a personality disorder,” a document signed by the psychiatrist said.

Veterans’ advocates say Captain Carlson stumbled upon evidence of something they had long suspected but had struggled to prove: that military commanders pressure clinicians to issue unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of troops.

[...] Though it is impossible to know how many veterans are disputing their personality disorder discharges, Vietnam Veterans of America, an advocacy group, with help from the Yale veterans legal clinic, has sued the Defense Department seeking records they say will show that thousands of troops have been unfairly discharged for personality or adjustment disorder since 2001.

“We believe that many of the people who received personality disorder discharges were wrongly diagnosed and that in fact they were suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury,” said Thomas Berger, executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America’s health council.


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