SEATTLE— The Army has more than doubled its number of military and civilian behavioral health workers in the past five years, but a litany of shortcomings still plagues the force when it comes to diagnosing and treating soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to an Army report being released Friday.
Confusing paperwork, inconsistent training and guidelines, and incompatible data systems have hindered the service as it tries to deal with behavioral health issues, the report said. It’s a crucial issue: After a decade of war, soldier suicides outpace combat deaths.
Last May, the Army commissioned a task force to conduct a sweeping review of how it evaluates soldiers for mental health problems at all its facilities. The review came under pressure from Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, who was upset to learn that hundreds of soldiers at Madigan Army Medical Center south of Seattle had had their PTSD diagnoses reversed by a forensic psychiatry team, resulting in a potential cut to their benefits and questions about whether the changes were made to save money.
About 150 of those soldiers eventually had their diagnoses restored.
“I am pleased that the Army completed this review and has vowed to make fixes over the next year, though I am disappointed it has taken more than a decade of war to get to this point,” Murray said in a statement. “Many of the 24 findings and 47 recommendations in this report are not new. Creating a universal electronic health record, providing better rural health access, and standardizing the way diagnoses are made, for instance, have been lingering problems for far too long. Our service members and their families deserve better.”
Read More at OfficialWire . By Gene Johnson.
Photo credit: The U.S. Army (Creative Commons)