Suspect deployed from base with PTSD failure

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The soldier suspected in a shooting rampage in Afghanistan was deployed from a U.S. base where medical personnel are being investigated for misdiagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Army is investigating claims that psychiatrists at the Madigan Medical Center on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord military base near Tacoma, Wash., failed to diagnose PTSD in hundreds of soldiers.

About 1,500 cases have been reviewed, and 285 of the soldiers will be offered re-evaluations, according to the Western Regional Medical Command, which runs Madigan - the largest military hospital on the West Coast.

The investigation was launched after a senior psychiatrist at Madigan urged subordinates not to “rubber-stamp” soldiers’ PTSD claims and to be “good stewards” of taxpayer dollars when assessing them.

The 38-year-old Army staff sergeant in custody and being investigated in the weekend shooting rampage, which left 16 Afghan civilians dead, was stationed at Lewis-McChord before his recent deployment to Afghanistan, military officials have said. Authorities have not yet released his name.

Officials declined to say whether the sergeant had undergone any evaluation by the unit under investigation. They also have not commented on any possible motivation for the shootings.

“We don’t know what his motivation was. We are looking into that,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

ABC News reported Monday that the sergeant had suffered from traumatic brain injury, a form of head injury that can cause behavioral or psychological problems and is often linked PTSD. Citing unidentified military officials, the report said he had been evaluated by a special traumatic brain injury unit at Lewis-McChord and deemed fit for service.

“We don’t comment on individual soldiers’ medical conditions,” Army Surgeon General spokeswoman Maria Tolleson said.

Army policy requires every soldier returning from a deployment, as the suspect did last year, to undergo a routine health assessment to screen for psychological or behavioral problems, such as depression, sleeplessness, or drug or alcohol abuse.

The Post-Deployment Health Reassessment, as the routine screening is called, was not conducted by the personnel under investigation at Madigan, said Sharon Ayala, a spokeswoman for the Western Regional Medical Command.

She described the screening as a “separate process that is conducted at a separate location, and is not connected to the Medical Evaluation Board process that’s in place at Madigan.”

The investigations at Madigan have raised enough questions about PTSD diagnoses by the U.S. military that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta last month ordered an investigation.

The Army inspector-general will examine diagnostic procedures to ensure that everyone is using the same standards to detect PTSD, Mr. Panetta told House appropriators last month.

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