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Witness Testimony of Mr. Joshua Kors, Reporter, The Nation and Contributor, ABC News

Good morning.  I’ve been reporting on personality disorder for the last ten months, and I’m here today to talk about the 22,500 soldiers discharged in the last six years with that condition.

A personality disorder discharge is a contradiction in terms.  Recruits who have a severe, pre-existing condition like a personality disorder do not pass the rigorous screening process and are not accepted into the Army. 

The soldiers I interviewed this year passed that first screening and were accepted into the Army.  They were deemed physically and psychologically fit in a second screening as well, before being deployed to Iraq, and served honorably there in combat.  In each case, it was only when they came back physically or psychologically wounded and sought benefits that their pre-existing condition was discovered.

Discharging soldiers with a personality disorder prevents them from being evaluated by a medical board and getting immediate medical care.  This can be life-threatening for our soldiers.  A good example is Chris Mosier, who served honorably in Iraq, where he watched several of his friends burn to death in front of him.  After that, he developed schizophrenic-like delusions.  He was treated at Ft. Carson for a few days, then discharged with a pre-existing personality disorder.  He returned home to Des Moines, where he left a note for his family saying the Iraqis were after him there in Iowa, then shot himself.

Surgeon General Gale Pollock agreed to review a stack of personality disorder cases.  After five months, she produced a memo saying her office had “thoughtfully and thoroughly” reviewed the cases, including Jon Town’s, and determined all of them to be properly diagnosed.  With further reporting, I discovered that as part of that “thoughtful and thorough” five-month review, Pollock’s office did not interview anybody, not even the soldiers whose cases she was reviewing.  Some of those soldiers said they called the Surgeon General’s office offering information about their ailments.  Their efforts were rebuffed.

The one thing the Surgeon General’s office did do was contact a doctor at Ft. Carson, where many of the personality disorder diagnoses were made, and ask him whether his doctors got it right the first time.  That doctor said yes, his staff’s original diagnoses were correct, and Pollock shut down the review at that point.

The Surgeon General’s office denied that for many months, insisting that the review was conducted by a panel of health experts who were not involved in the original diagnoses.  This wasn’t a case of one man reviewing his own work, they said.  But eventually it did come out that the only reviewer was Col. Steven Knorr, who as Chief of Behavior Health at Ft. Carson, oversaw many of the personality disorder diagnoses and, in his capacity as a psychiatrist, was reportedly involved in creating many of them as well.

When the problems with Walter Reed became public, the Pentagon took two actions: it accepted the resignation of Surgeon General Kevin Kiley, and it hired the public relations firm LMW Strategies with a $100,000 no-bid contract to put a positive spin on those problems.  This past week, as these personality disorder discharges became public, VA Secretary Nicholson stepped down.  And today Surgeon General Pollock will sit before you.

As a journalist, it’s not my role to make any recommendations, but I do want to share with you the hopes of the wounded veterans I spoke to this year, which is a hope that someone be held responsible, and that officials go back through the 22,500 cases and seek out the thousands of Jon Towns who are waiting there, struggling right now without benefits or the media spotlight.


Personality Disorder Discharges (2001-2006)

Year

Army

Air Force

Navy

Marines

2001

805

Unavailable

1,389

443

2002

734

1,523

1,733

460

2003

980

1,496

1,316

328

2004

988

1,307

1,253

414

2005

1,038

928

1,176

475

Nov. 2006

1,086

1,085

1,076

442

Totals:

5,631

6,339

7,943

2,562

TOTAL (2001 - Nov. 2006):    22,475

Total for 2001: 2637 (which includes the Air Force’s one unavailable year)
Total for 2002: 4450
Total for 2003: 4120
Total for 2004: 3962
Total for 2005: 3617
Total for 2006: 3689

Source: Department of Defense
*Navy numbers are for fiscal, not calendar, year.


 

Department of the Army Memo, Office of the Surgeon General, for Steve Robinson, Veterans for America, regarding review of Fort Carson Cases


Press Release / March 27, 2007

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is real. The Army’s leadership- up and down the chain of command starting with the Acting Secretary of the Army and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army- are actively involved in getting the entire Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board process right.  The Army has no greater obligation to its returning ‘Wounded Warriors’ than to provide them with the absolute best medical care possible; and if we come up short, then the Army will react immediately to remedy the problem.

Leaders from the Office of the Army Surgeon General had the cases Mr. Robinson brought to them thoroughly evaluated and reviewed.  While we cannot address individual medical cases in this venue, it was determined that the behavioral health providers did thorough assessments and appropriately referred the Soldiers for substance abuse and behavioral health treatments. A more detailed response is being provided to Mr. Robinson.

The behavioral health officers at the Army hospital at Fort Carson reviewed the Chapter 5-13 cases in Soldiers who were diagnosed with PTSD.  The data demonstrated that there were no Soldiers separated under Chapter 5-13 in the last 4 years who should have undergone a medical evaluation board.  It should be noted that a personality disorder diagnosis does not necessarily mean that a medical evaluation board is needed.  It indicates that a Soldier has personality traits that are not compatible with military service. 

Soldiers who are separated under Chapter 5-13 receive honorable Discharges and, if they have served six or more years on active duty, they are eligible for separation pay.  Additionally, it is Army policy not to separate a Soldier for a personality disorder under Chapter 5-13 if that disorder amounts to a disability.  If the disorder amounts to a disability, the Soldier should be separated under the disability evaluation procedures of AR 635-200.

Further, it is certainly possible that there are cases where Soldiers with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury are not diagnosed or treated. We are grateful each time someone raises a concern. Nothing is more important than insuring that these men and women are provided the best possible health care.

We understand that many wounded and injured Soldiers, who have supported the Global War on Terror, as well as their families, continue to endure hardships.  The Army is committed to providing the best possible medical care for the men and women who have volunteered to serve this great nation and has recently launched the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline:  1-800-984-8523.

The purpose of the hotline's call center is twofold:  to offer wounded and injured Soldiers and family members a way to seek help to resolve medical issues and to provide an information channel to senior Army leadership so they can improve how the Army serves the medical needs of our Soldiers and their families.”

Lieutenant Colonel Bob Tallman
Spokesman for the U.S. Army