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Army reviewing PTSD evaluation program

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
March 21, 2012 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Army examining PTSD diagnosis reversals at Joint Base Lewis McCord
  • McCord is home base of Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghans
  • No evidence that Bales had been diagnosed or treated for PTSD
  • Bales attorney suggested PTSD will be issue in defense

(CNN) -- The Army is conducting "a wholesale re-examination" of soldiers whose post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis was reversed by the military hospital at Joint Base Lewis McCord, Army Sec. John McHugh said Wednesday at a Senate hearing.

The review comes after revelations that a significant number of diagnosis had been reversed. Statistics showed staff at Madigan Medical Center on JBLM had reversed the PTSD diagnoses of 40% of the troops they'd evaluated, according to Sen. Patty Murray, Washington-D, who raised the issue at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Lewis-McChord is the home base of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier who is in custody for allegedly killing 16 Afghan civilians earlier this month.

There's no evidence that Bales had been diagnosed or treated for PTSD or that his case had been reversed, though his attorney suggested Tuesday that he would make PTSD an issue in the case.

"Anybody that has seen what he's seen and done what he's done at the request of the military ... I think, would have PTSD. I don't know, I'm not an expert in that arena," said his attorney John Henry Browne.

When that statistics came out, the Army started investigating, McHugh said.

"Clearly when you have those kinds of data we want to make sure that everything is appropriate," McHugh testified Wednesday at a Senate Appropriations committee hearing.

He said the Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, immediately asked the unit at JBLM that was evaluating PTSD cases to step down and the reversed diagnoses are being re-examined. In some cases, PTSD findings have been reinstated, McHugh said. Gen. Horoho is also investigating whether PTSD evaluations at other Army medical facilities are being done properly. Results of that investigation are not complete.

Some concerned soldiers said the JBLM re-evaluation was based on the extraordinary cost of potential lifetime care for a soldier diagnosed with PTSD. McHugh said that should not be a factor in such considerations

"Fiscal considerations are not in any way a part of the evaluation. It's simply unacceptable," McHugh said. "We're doing everything we can to make that clear system-side."

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