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Army psychiatrist calls review of PTSD diagnoses 'a charade'

In her resignation letter, Madigan Army Medical Center forensic psychiatrist Juliana Ellis-Billingsley wrote that the Army’s top behavioral health officer misled Madigan leaders about the results of an investigation into post-traumatic stress diagnoses at the hospital south of Tacoma.

Ellis-Billingsley wrote that Col. Rebecca Porter in early February told Madigan leaders that forensic psychiatrists at Walter Reed Military Medical Center had upheld the first 12 Madigan diagnoses they reviewed among a group of 14 soldiers who contested the behavioral health diagnoses they received from Madigan.

Three weeks later, Porter visited Madigan to deliver the results of the Walter Reed reviews to the soldiers themselves. They learned that Walter Reed overturned six Madigan diagnoses, deciding that those soldiers suffered from PTSD. In eight other cases, Walter Reed agreed with Madigan in diagnosing soldiers with conditions other than PTSD.

Madigan commander Col. Dallas Homas reportedly received the first news from Col. Porter at an Army medical health conference in Washington, D.C. Homas declined to comment today on Ellis-Billingsley’s letter.

Ellis-Billingsley wrote that Homas returned from Washington, D.C., and delivered what appeared to be good news to the Madigan psychiatrists.

“Each day we awaited the release of the information,” Ellis-Billingsley wrote. “Then on 18 February 2012 Col. Homas was administratively relieved and Col. (Mike) Heimall, a medical service officer, was named the interim commander. On 22 February 2012, we met with Col. Heimall and Col. (Karen) O’Brien. Col. Heimall announced that Walter Reed forensics concurred with the diagnoses on only 8 of 14 cases.

“It became patently clear to me that some force above Western Region (Medical Command) came to bear on Walter Reed forensics and they changed their diagnoses. This is professionally unethical. It is now my opinion that all the investigations are a charade as the outcome has been predetermined. Forces will come to bear on the investigators to meet political expediency.”

This is the question I asked Army Medical Command last week about Ellis-Billingsley’s letter:

“I have a resignation letter from a Madigan forensic psychologist. It says Col. Porter from Medical Command at early February’s MHS conference advised Madigan leaders that the Walter Reed reviews supported Madigan conclusions in 12 of 14 cases. This psychologist seems to believe those results were changed for political reasons. ‘It is now my opinion that all the investigations are a charade as the outcome has been predetermined,’ the psychologist wrote. Was Col. Porter speaking too soon? Will there be an investigation into the Walter Reed diagnoses to see if they were influenced for political reasons?”

This is the answer I received:

“Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is not an Army medical facility but a joint medical facility under the operational control of Joint Task Force Capital Medicine. The Army brought no undue influence or pressure to bear on Walter Reed to produce any particular results in these re-evaluations. Because Walter Reed is not an Army facility but a joint facility, it was well-placed to provide an unbiased look at these cases. We are aware of no particular influence brought to bear from any quarter on Walter Reed in this matter.”

 

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