Head of Madigan removed from command amid PTSD probe

 It was VCS that first testified before Congress about the billions of dollars “saved”  by preventing tens of thousands of veterans from obtaining any (or timely) medical care and disability benefits from DoD and VA. –VCS Board

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Col. Dallas Homas has been removed from command amid an Army investigation into the medical center’s handling of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

By Hal Bernton

Seattle Times staff reporter

Col. Dallas Homas has been administratively removed from command of Madigan Healthcare System less than a year after taking over the top leadership position at the Western Washington military medical center.

Homas’ departure, announced Monday, comes as the Army Medical Command launches an investigation into Madigan’s treatment and screening of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The investigation is looking into complaints by soldiers that their PTSD diagnoses were improperly reversed and into comments a Madigan psychiatrist made about how costly PTSD diagnoses were for taxpayers.

During a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee meeting this month, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general, also said the investigation would examine whether undue command influence was involved in the 2010 closure of a Madigan outpatient PTSD treatment program.

While the investigations are ongoing, Homas has been administratively removed from his position, according to Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, who heads the Western Regional Medical Command, which oversees Madigan.

“This is a common practice during ongoing investigations and nothing more,” said Volpe. “Through this action, all leadership, both at Madigan and throughout the Western Regional Medical Command, reaffirms their faith and trust in the investigation.”

Homas is a West Point graduate who has had a distinguished career in Army medicine that included deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served as Command Surgeon. His military honors include two Bronze Stars.

“I remain optimistic that the truth will come out with these investigations,” Homas said Monday. “I don’t feel that I or my team have done anything wrong.”

Homas was appointed Madigan’s commander in March 2011. Responding to news about the PTSD investigation, Homas said recently, “We welcome the opportunity to show investigators our procedures and practices and are committed to doing so with the utmost transparency and cooperation.”

Madigan is on Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma and has been a major health-care facility for soldiers returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The focal point of the Army Medical Command investigation is a Madigan forensic psychiatric team that has the lead role in screening soldiers being considered for medical retirement due to PTSD.

The current Madigan system for screening PTSD patients was set up in October 2008, according to a statement from Madigan. At that time, Horoho, the current surgeon general, served as Madigan’s commander, according to The Mountaineer, a Madigan publication.

Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD gain at least a 50 percent rating of disability, and qualify for pensions, family health insurance and other financial benefits.

In 2011, an ombudsman investigated complaints from soldiers who said that the forensic psychiatric team had reversed earlier diagnoses of PTSD, and tagged some of them as possible malingerers.

The ombudsman also wrote a memo about a lecture in which a member of the forensic psychiatric team talked about the need to be “good stewards” of taxpayer dollars and not rubber stamp PTSD diagnoses that could result in a soldier earning $1.5 million in benefits over a lifetime.

The ombudsman investigation resulted in more than a dozen soldiers getting the chance for a second PTSD screening by doctors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.

Fourteen of those soldiers will have the results of their Walter Reed reviews detailed beginning Tuesday in individual meetings at Madigan with Col. Rebecca Porter, chief of behavioral health, Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General.

In the weeks ahead, more are expected to get second reviews at Walter Reed.

While the investigation unfolds, Dr. William Keppler, the leader of Madigan’s forensic psychiatric team, has been suspended from clinical duties.

Also in the interim, Col. Mike Heimall, commander, Irwin Army Community Hospital, Fort Riley, Kan., will assume command of Madigan as its interim commander.

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