Friday, May 16, 2008

Bush's VA encourages false diagnoses of veterans

There is no positive spin possible on the story of the Bush administration VA official who discouraged diagnosing veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It is simply shameful in every regard.

A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition.

"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," Norma Perez wrote in a March 20 e-mail to mental-health specialists and social workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Tex. Instead, she recommended that they "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

VA staff members "really don't . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez wrote.

Adjustment disorder is a less severe reaction to stress than PTSD and has a shorter duration, usually no longer than six months, said Anthony T. Ng, a psychiatrist and member of Mental Health America, a nonprofit professional association.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD can be eligible for disability compensation of up to $2,527 a month, depending on the severity of the condition, said Alison Aikele, a VA spokeswoman. Those found to have adjustment disorder generally are not offered such payments, though veterans can receive medical treatment for either condition.
There is so much that is so wrong with this, and so emblematic of the systemic corruption of George W. Bush's presidency, that one hardly know where to begin.

But let me start with this: Veterans Affairs staffers were instructed to determine, in advance, how to diagnose patients that they had not even met yet. What kind of professional standard is that? That doesn't even rise to the level of Bill Frist diagnosing Terri Schiavo via videotape. At least Frist knew Schiavo's name before issuing his fraudulent diagnosis of her condition.

In order to avoid paying disability claims, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs decided in advance that it would not diagnose returning vets with PTSD. So, regardless of their symptoms, vets were seeking help from people who were predisposed, under orders, to not help them. Think about that for a moment.

What callousness. What breathtaking cruelty.

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