The fallout from the bombshell dropped last fall at Madigan Army Medical Center continues. Now, months after the hospital's forensic psychology team urged the facility's doctors to be cautious in diagnosing PTSD because the generous retirement benefits for shell-shocked soldiers cost taxpayers money, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has entered the fray.
Madigan's forensic psychiatry team, created in 2008, is in charge of reviewing PTSD cases, and sometimes they change the diagnoses. Their role came under scrutiny in the wake of the questionable comments about the disability pensions given to PTSD afflicted soldiers, which can payout more than $1 million over the course of several decades.
The head of the forensic psychiatric team, Dr. William Keppler, was subsequently relieved from his clinical duties, and Madigan medical chief Col. Dallas Homas was also suspended pending an investigation. Both deny any wrongdoing.
"I remain optimistic that the truth will come out with these investigations," said Homas, a decorated veteran, whose carer includes tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. "I don't feel that I or my team have done anything wrong."
Twelve soldiers who had their PTSD diagnoses reversed at Madigan have since been re-examined at Walter Reed, the Army's flagship medical in Washington D.C., where doctors concluded that six of them really do suffer from the disorder. The 50 percent error rate doesn't sit well with Sen. Patty Murray, who listened to Panetta's testimony Tuesday during the committee hearing.
"The most important thing is that these service members and their families are provided with answers on why cost was a factor in the treatment they sought for the invisible wounds of war, and that the Army takes the right steps to fix it," Murray told The News Tribune.