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Panetta Orders Military-Wide Review Of Mental Health Diagnoses

Patricia Murphy

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he's ordered a military–wide review of behavioral and mental health diagnoses dating back to 2001. The announcement expands on a similar review ordered by the Army following an investigation at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma.


Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revealed the department's mental health care review during a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Washington Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Murray grilled Panetta about the department's efforts to improve mental health care for both active duty service members and veterans.

One active duty service member a day commits suicide according to the Pentagon.

Murray: "The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions that are confronting a lot of our service members, loved ones, and as we just talked about, resulting in such extreme things as suicide."

Panetta: "I'm not satisfied either. What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them. And frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on."

The expanded review follows an Army–wide investigation announced in May. It all stems from revelations that a forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma reversed some soldiers PTSD diagnoses. The adjustments prevented the soldiers from receiving disability benefits for behavioral health issues stemming from their combat experiences. Some of those diagnoses have been changed back since the review.

Panetta told the Committee that the Department of Defense spends almost $50 billion a year on health care.

I'm Patricia Murphy, KUOW News, reporting.

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