May 16, 2008, Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, issued the following statement this morning regarding an email sent by a Department of Veterans Affairs employee suggesting that in order to save time and resources, VA should avoid diagnosing veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The email was sent by a mental health professional at the Temple, Texas Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and suggested that the facility’s mental health staff should stop diagnosing veterans with PTSD.
“This incident is both disturbing and disappointing, and provides further evidence that VA’s mental health program requires significant attention,” said Akaka. “I have asked VA’s Inspector General to review diagnosis patterns at the facility involved as well as any benefits decisions based on diagnoses from that facility. I am also calling on VA Secretary Peake to provide renewed guidelines to all VA field offices on the proper diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and on handling claims for compensation for PTSD.”
Psychological war wounds are difficult to diagnose and harder still to heal, but they are no less real than any other service-connected injury,” added Akaka, who is working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring S. 2162, the bipartisan Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, to the Senate floor for a vote. “I continue to be concerned that VA’s mental health system is unprepared for the rising demands placed on the system by both younger and older veterans. I will keep working to improve standards and funding for veterans’ mental health care.”