“They look at all sorts of administrative data and then they make that diagnosis. So that's why there wasn't a face-to-face encounter with it because it's actually not treatment. But that variance is not how we handle the disability process across all of Army medicine,” Horoho told the committee, adding that the process “was an unfair disadvantage to those service members, so we've suspended that.”
She said the Army is also investigating the decision to close a high-intensity stress treatment program at Madigan and fold it into another mental health program.
“You know, we can’t be getting rid of an Intensive Operations Program because it came up with too many diagnoses,” Dicks complained.
"I actually expanded the investigation to include the intensive outpatient center, so that we can understand why it … was actually closed; was there undue command influence in closing of it; has it had any negative impact on our patients,” Horoho said.
Jorge Gonzalez, head of a service members’ advocacy group near Lewis-McChord, said the investigation reflects a longstanding problem with combat veterans gaining access to mental health services.
“We have people coming in here, they have the symptoms of PTSD, every symptom you can think of, and then they get ‘anxiety disorder’ instead. And it’s definitely to save money,” said Gonzalez of the group G.I. Voice. “It’s definitely to bring down the numbers of PTSD, especially at this base, which has such a high number.”
Madigan has seen a substantial increase in soldiers seeking help with mental health issues, with “behavioral health” visits exceeding 100,000 a year since 2010.
Sharon Ayala, spokeswoman for the Army's Western Region Medical Command, said the Army has scheduled appointments through Thursday with the 14 soldiers whose diagnoses have been reevaluated.
"This is going to be a very thorough and compassionate notification process," she said in an interview. "We've allocated one hour for each soldier. We want to take our time in providing them with this information, and we want to be able to answer any questions that they have."
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