The investigative arm of Congress said Friday it will send a team to Fort Carson to examine mental-health care for Iraq war veterans after complaints that some soldiers with brain damage or stress-related injuries have been misdiagnosed with personality disorders and discharged.
Marcia Crosse, health care director for the Government Accountability Office, told The Associated Press the visit will be soon but no date had been set.
The advocacy group Veterans for America has said it is looking into as many as 40 case where Fort Carson soldiers may have been misdiagnosed.
Crosse said the GAO review will be broader than that, but “certainly those cases have been brought to our attention.”
Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, has come under close scrutiny amid rising national concern about the Army’s treatment of Iraq veterans with brain injuries and mental health problems.
A delegation representing nine U.S. senators, who called on the GAO to investigate Fort Carson’s treatment practices, will visit the post May 14-15
Fort Carson is the first Army post to announce it will try using brain-scan equipment to help detect brain injuries in soldiers returning from Iraq. The equipment is not generally used in the Army, although a congressional task force this week recommended that it be employed throughout the service.
Fort Carson has released considerable information about the care it offers and has allowed reporters to tour its facilities.
“We welcome all visits to look into the systems,” post spokeswoman Dee McNutt said Friday.
Fort Carson released a study last month that found that nearly 2,400 of the 13,400 troops it had sent to Iraq, or 18 percent, suffered at least some brain damage from insurgents’ explosive devices.
The report also said 276 soldiers at Fort Carson have been discharged since 2003 because of personality disorders, and 56 of them also had post-traumatic stress disorder.
The report said an unspecified number of the soldiers with PTSD had suffered traumatic brain injury.
It said none of the PTSD cases was serious, and therefore none of the soldiers had been examined by a medical board before being discharged. None of the 276 will receive disability pay or medical benefits.
Stephen Robinson, director of veterans affairs for Veterans for America, said Thursday that some of the details released by Fort Carson were disturbing.
Military guidelines say doctors should clearly identify that a personality disorder has an “enduring pattern,” and that it is “important to document maladaptive traits.” If a doctor determines that a personality disorder existed before enlistment, the question of whether being in the service aggravated the condition should be considered, the guidelines say.