VA Reprimands Doctor Who Discouraged Stress Diagnoses for War Vets
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake on Thursday reprimanded the physician overseeing the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a Texas VA facility, the New York Daily News reports. The physician discouraged staff members from diagnosing PTSD in order to reduce the number of veterans seeking financial compensation for the condition (Sisk, New York Daily News, 5/16).
The physician, Norma Perez of Olin E. Teague Veterans Center in Temple, Texas, wrote in an e-mail, "Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," adding that staffers should "consider a diagnosis of adjustment disorder." Perez also wrote staff members "really don't ... have the time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD." The e-mail was obtained and made public on Thursday by VoteVets.org and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Lee, Washington Post, 5/16).
Peake said Perez "has been counseled and is extremely apologetic" (New York Daily News, 5/16).
Peake said the e-mail was "inappropriate" and does not reflect VA policy. The e-mail has been "repudiated at the highest level of our health care organization," he said, adding, "VA's leadership will strongly remind all medical staff that trust, accuracy and transparency is paramount to maintaining our relationships with our veteran patients" (Washington Post, 5/16).
Veterans diagnosed with PTSD can be eligible for disability compensation of up to $2,527 monthly, depending on severity of their condition, according to VA spokesperson Alison Aikele. Veterans diagnosed with adjustment disorder, a less severe condition with a shorter duration, are not offered compensation but are eligible for medical treatment of the condition (Dallas Morning News, 5/15).
An April RAND report found that about 300,000 U.S. military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD or major depression (Washington Post, 5/16).