Military PTSD Screenings Questioned

Rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among US soldiers and veterans has been on the rise in recent years, with at least 200,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from the disorder. It has become so widespread in recent years that the military stepped up efforts to educate doctors and servicemen about the disorder, in an effort to make sure that those with PTSD receive treatment. But not everyone is happy with the process. The Army Surgeon General recently issued a more strict set of guidelines for doctors to follow when diagnosing PTSD. The guidelines, which have not been made public, were recently reported on in the Seattle Times, which cited the Army Surgeon General’s report as discrediting a handful of screening tests for PTSD that are widely used by military clinicians.

Particular fault is found with one of the more popular personality tests that clinicians use, known as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test. The test, which is often used to label some as “malingerers” (e.g. those faking PTSD), often produces flawed results, according to experts quoted in the Times article. PTSD sufferers exhibit a wide range of symptoms including insomnia, flashbacks and depression, but the test in question can dismiss or downplay those issues, resulting in legitimate sufferers being labeled as fakers.

This is particularly alarming because the tests in question were the standard of care at Madigan Army Medical Center, one of the military’s largest medical installations. This Tacoma, Washington-based facility is also home to a forensic psychiatry team tasked with deciding whether soldiers diagnosed with PTSD are sick enough to qualify for medical retirement. In March, the Army launched an investigation of the Madigan team after Madigan’s screening procedures allegedly reversed 300 of the PTSD diagnoses among soldiers being evaluated.

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Whether the Surgeon General’s attempts at strengthening its PTSD diagnostic tactics will result in more diagnoses and better early treatment remains to be seen, but the problem won’t be going away any time soon. If you or someone you love needs help with addiction and a mental health issue like PTSD, call The Oaks at La Paloma at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about Dual Diagnosis treatment, financing or insurance.

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