By AP / Gene Johnson
March 08, 2013
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 (PTSD), 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.
Last year the Army – and the military as a whole – suffered the highest number of suicides ever recorded, prompting then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to declare it an epidemic. The Army had 183 suicides among active-duty soldiers, up from 167 in 2011, and the military as a whole had 350 suicides, up from 301 the year before.
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