Army: Forensic Psychiatry No Longer Used for PTSD Disability Evaluations

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — The Army will no longer use forensic psychiatry to evaluate soldiers diagnosed with PTSD in the disability evaluation system, military officials announced. The announcement came after a firestorm of controversy erupted earlier this year at Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC).

A number of soldiers there had PTSD diagnoses overturned in the disability evaluation system, which used forensic psychiatry methods instead of those typically used in military evaluations.

Forensic psychiatry incorporates the medical practice of psychiatry with legal issues and often is used to conduct administrative reviews in areas such as worker’s compensation. It has been criticized for placing too much emphasis on malingering.

Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, commander of Western Regional Medical Command, speaks during a press conference last month at Madigan Army Healthcare System, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, about the Army’s recent decision to discontinue the use of forensic psychiatry as part of its disability evaluation system. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

Rather than citing any wrongdoing, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the Army’s vice chief of staff, suggested in a statement that, after a review, officials concluded that “the forensic methods are not the right ones for the United States Army disability evaluation system.”

“We learned MAMC officials acted in accordance with the standard of practice for civilian disability evaluations,” he said. “But we also learned that, while the evaluation may be fair and appropriate, it’s simply not optimal for the unique cases that the Army diagnoses and reviews.”

Austin said new policies and procedures are now in place to review PTSD cases. Furthermore, he announced that Col. Dallas Homas was reinstated to his position as MAMC commander after the review found that “Col. Homas did not exert any undue influence over PTSD diagnoses and that he acted appropriately, enforcing standard medical guidelines.”

Homas had been temporarily suspended from his position as investigators examined how the PTSD cases were evaluated there.

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