May 20, 2008 – At a time when increasing numbers of veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, it is outrageous to learn that a Veterans Affairs supervisor suggested that VA caregivers downgrade PTSD findings to “adjustment disorders.”
Congress should launch an investigation to make sure America’s veterans receive the mental health care they deserve.
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, said he was “appalled” by the VA memo.
Edwards has fought for years to obtain funding for veterans’ health care, especially to treat PTSD at the Waco VA Medical Center.
Edwards helped fund a joint VA research project into PTSD between the Waco VA hospital and the Temple VA Medical Center.
Now comes the memo: A PTSD program coordinator and psychologist at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple sent an e-mail in March to VA staffers including psychologists, social workers and a psychiatrist that said, “Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out.”
The supervisor, identified as Norma J. Perez, went on to recommend that her caregivers instead “consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder . . . ”
“Additionally,” Perez wrote, “we really don’t have or (sic) have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD.”
Veterans diagnosed with PTSD can be eligible for up to $2,527 a month in disability compensation, depending on their condition. Those diagnosed with adjustment disorder generally receive no compensation.
Also, treatment for adjustment disorder usually takes no more than six months. PTSD treatment generally takes much longer.
The memo, obtained by VoteVets.org, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was called “inappropriate” by VA Secretary James Peake. He said it does not reflect VA policy.
Peake said Perez has been “counseled” and is “extremely apologetic.” She also remains on her job.
Peake recently appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee to answer questions about VA e-mails that suggested VA officials were hiding the number of veterans trying to commit suicide.
A Rand Corp. report found that about 300,000 U.S. military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD or major depression. There are estimates that as many as 18 veterans a day commit suicide.
Peake needs to be called back to Congress to assure lawmakers that the outrageous recommendations in the Temple VA memo are not VA policy. Peake also should send out his own memo instructing that cost-cutting diagnoses will not be allowed.
There are estimates that as many as 18 veterans a day commit suicide.