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BALDWIN: This story hit a lot of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan like a bomb being dropped. A couple weeks ago we told you about the Madigan (pg) Army Medical Center in Washington State. And treating troops returning from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, doctors at this hospital were being urged to be cautious before diagnosing PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
The reason? The retirement benefits for PTSD soldiers cost taxpayers money. Today we now have an update.
I want to bring in U.S. Senator Patty Murray, who represents Washington State. She has announced some 285 patients have been identified, who had PTSD, the diagnoses reversed at Madigan. And I want to welcome Senator Murray, joining me from the other Washington, Washington D.C.
Senator, I know that you have been briefed on this. What can you share? What do you know?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Well, I've been following this for many months, because I had soldiers and their families contact me, who had been diagnosed with PTSD, and that diagnosis was overturned. And they were told that they didn't have PTSD or other mental health issues.
This was a serious blow to them, because it's really hard with a invisible wound of war to get the kind of treatment you need anyway. And then to find out that they may have been told they don't have PTSD, because it costs too much, was just amazingly shocking to me and to all of them.
We now have gone through a long process, a number of soldiers are now having their cases reviewed that were reversed. And it is just the wrong signal to send to our men and women, who we sent to war, that if you have an injury, either one you can see or one that you can't see, that you may not be treated because of the costs. That is just not the message we ought to be sending.
BALDWIN: Senator, I just want to check my numbers with you, is it 285, that's the numbers of soldiers who were misdiagnosed?
MURRAY: Well, at this point the Army is now going back and they have found 285 soldiers in the past three or four years who have had their diagnosis reversed. They're now having to go back and find those soldiers and re-review these cases. There's 285 of them that we know of at this point.
BALDWIN: So they may or may not be receiving appropriate treatment right now, simply because the Army has yet to find them. Is that correct?
MURRAY: That's correct. They may or may not be receiving the right treatment. And that is so hard. I talked to one of these families.
They've been through everything since their soldier went to Afghanistan and came back, severely injured, had a mental health injury, trying to figure out what's wrong with himself, and then being told, well, it's not PTSD, not getting the care he needed. This has horrendous for them. No one should go through that.
BALDWIN: I do want to read -- we reached out to the Army, and I just want to give part of a statement.
They say -- and I'm, quoting, "It is important that we make contact with each soldier, who we have identified as possibly requiring a second look. This is part of our promise to our patients to provide them with optimal care."
Have you spoken with any other soldiers? You mentioned that one family and how this is just devastating for them.
MURRAY: Yes. We've had actually a number of families contact my office since last summer about this issue, and some prior to that. I've been talking to them. They are really glad that the Army is now really moving forward to go back and look at this.
But we have to make sure, system-wide, that when our men and women get an invisible wound of the war, they are treated, they're treated effectively, and they're not told it's just in your head, and they are especially not told that we're not going to treat you because it costs too much.
BALDWIN: Now I understand that part of the investigation -- and this all came about because of these worries, as we were talking earlier about the costs, right, that some of these Madigan doctors weren't diagnosing because of the cost concerns over a soldier's lifetime, that the retirement benefits with someone with this particular diagnosis would just simply cost too much money.
I mean, is that, Senator, what this comes down to, an effort to save taxpayer money?
MURRAY: Well, we are told that that has been some of the conversation around this forensic psychiatry unit. That is now being investigated and certainly has to be looked at. But we have to go back also to the culture that we have in our armed services and in our Army about understanding what mental health illnesses are.
Just because you cannot see them doesn't mean they don't exist, and they can be treated, they can be helped, and we need to be making sure that, when they're in the Army, they get the correct diagnosis and they are treated.
BALDWIN: You mentioned big picture. I understand, Senator, that this investigation now -- this has, you know, reached the Pentagon, that there's sort of this greater review, because you think if it could be happening in Washington State, I can't help but wonder, could this be happening elsewhere?
MURRAY: Absolutely. There are now three investigations going on, but I believe we need to look systemwide. Look, we've got thousands and thousands of soldiers coming home today. Many of them do have PTSD or other mental health illnesses.
We cannot ignore that, and send them home and have them come back 10, 20 years from now with difficult challenges in their families.
You know, I worked in a veterans' hospital during the Vietnam War on the psychiatric ward. And we did not treat our soldiers well who came home. It was a serious mistake; we've been paying for it ever since.
We cannot make the same mistake today, of not paying attention to the serious mental health illnesses that our soldiers face, first of all, because we can treat them and help them, but secondly, as a country, we owe them this.
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