– Military boots PTSD troops with no benefits. Pentagon has moved away from personality disorders, but adjustment disorder diagnosis is another piece of the same problem, a “cost effective” way for veterans to receive no benefits and no treatment. … ‘I was told I had PTSD, and then I was told I didn’t.‘ No word from the Commander-in-Chief yet. –
By Kelly Kennedy in the Army Times
Two years ago, Congress enacted rules to curb the military’s practice of separating troops with combat stress for pre-existing personality disorders – an administrative discharge that left those veterans without medical care or other benefits.
Now, veterans advocates say, the military is using a new means to the same end: giving stressed troops administrative discharges for “adjustment disorders,” which
also carry no benefits.
And just as before, Congress appears poised to wade in.
Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., plans to ask President Obama to have the Pentagon provide details on discharges for adjustment disorder in recent years.
In the meantime, Bond’s office has been gathering more general data that show discharges for “other designated physical or mental conditions not amounting to
disability” – which includes adjustment disorder – have shot from 1,453 in 2006 to 3,844 in 2009.
Over the same time, personality disorder discharges dropped from a peak of 1,072 in 2006 to just 260 last year.
Shana Marchio, an aide to Bond, said the issue was brought to the senator’s attention by Steve Robinson, a former Army Ranger who is now a veterans advocate.
“The good news is that the Pentagon has moved away from personality disorders, but we feel [adjustment disorder] could be another piece of the same problem,”
At press time, Pentagon officials had not responded to a request for comment about the recent rise in administrative discharges.
According to the DSM-IV, the psychiatric manual for mental health issues, adjustment disorder may occur when someone has difficulty dealing with a life event,
such as a new job or a divorce – or basic training. It also may occur after exposure to a traumatic event.
The symptoms can be the same as for post-traumatic stress disorder: flashbacks, nightmares, anger, sleeplessness, irritability and avoidance.
According to military and Veterans Affairs Department rules, if symptoms last longer than six months, the diagnosis should change to PTSD. Under the law enacted in 2008, that means medical retirement, an honorable discharge, a 50 percent disability rating and medical care.
That is not always happening, Robinson said. “This is a case of inappropriate discharges. There are hundreds of cases.”
‘I could barely function’
During a deployment to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division in 2008, former Army Pfc. Michael Nahas, 22, said he survived two roadside bomb explosions and one
rocket-propelled grenade attack, and watched people die in another explosion in Mosul.
Two months after returning to Fort Carson, Colo., he began feeling anxious and guilty about people he believed had died needlessly. He went to the post mental
health clinic. Over three weeks, he said he had three appointments – and a lot of medication, including 14 milligrams of Xanax a day.
“I was drooling on myself,” he said. “I could barely function.” His mother and veterans advocates verified his doses.
As enlisted supervisors in his unit chain found out he was going to behavioral health, Nahas said some made fun of him, calling him “crazy” and telling him to kill
himself so he would not be a problem.
Veterans advocates who worked on Nahas’ case verified his information, citing police and medical records as well as conversations with commanders. Army Lt. Col. Steve Wollman, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, declined to comment on Nahas’ specific charges.
“The allegations were thoroughly investigated,” he said. “Some were unsubstantiated and some of them were substantiated. Appropriate corrective actions were
made, and the investigation is closed.”
In February, Nahas said he had a reaction to his medication that, coupled with the stress he was under, led him to try to commit suicide by sticking IV needles in his arms to bleed out.
In a photo of the aftermath provided by Nahas’ family, blood fills the bathtub and a red smiley face gazes from the tiles above.
His wife found him and called for help, and Nahas survived.
After his suicide attempt, he said he spent time in an inpatient clinic where he was diagnosed with PTSD, then went back to his unit. But rather than beginning
the medical retirement process for PTSD, in late April his unit gave him an administrative dischargefor adjustment disorder and sent him back to civilian life.
“I was told I had PTSD, and then I was told I didn’t,” he said.
His situation is not unique, according to people familiar with the military disability system.
Jason Perry, a former Army judge advocate who helps troops going through medical retirement, said he has seen dozens of such cases.
“It’s very common,” Perry said. “And it’s completely illegal.”