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Originally published February 22, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Page modified February 23, 2012 at 6:13 AM

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PTSD diagnosed in 6 of 14 soldiers examined at Walter Reed

Of 14 soldiers whose mental-health diagnoses were re-evaluated at Walter Reed, six were found to have PTSD.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Army Surgeon's Office has released the results of re-evaluations of 14 soldiers whose mental-health diagnoses from Madigan Army Medical Center were reviewed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

These soldiers are under consideration for medical retirement, and most were concerned that the Madigan's screening by a forensic psychiatric team had dropped PTSD diagnoses made by other health-care providers.

The Walter Reed review concluded with six soldiers receiving PTSD diagnoses, while another six were diagnosed with behavioral conditions other than PTSD. Two soldiers who had never been diagnosed with PTSD were determined to have behavioral-health conditions other than PTSD.

Col. Rebecca Porter, chief, behavioral health, Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General, briefed the 14 soldiers on the Walter Reed re-evaluations in a series of meetings that concluded Wednesday.

"Our goal is to first provide an accurate medical diagnosis," Porter said in a statement released Wednesday.

"When any of our providers are assessing the health of our soldiers, their practice is guided by evidence-based interventions that are widely used by medical providers throughout the United States, and that are individualized to the patient's specific condition."

Because of concerns surrounding these cases, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, has suspended forensic evaluations for rating PTSD until guidelines can be published.

"The results of these 14 cases suggest that some degree of variance was introduced into the diagnostic process by the use of forensically trained clinicians," said Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, commanding general, Western Regional Medical Command. "We have a responsibility to identify the cause of variance, eliminate diagnostic variance, and standardize our processes across all of Army Medicine."

Volpe said Madigan was the only Army medical facility that routinely used a forensic psychiatry service in the medical evaluation board process.

"These results clearly show that the PTSD evaluation process by this unit at Madigan has been deeply flawed," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "However, how many other service members have been wrongly diagnosed, how much cost played a role in these decisions, and how widespread this problem is are still big, unanswered questions.

"This is just the beginning of a long investigation that needs to provide real answers and a better process for our service members and their families," Murray said.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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