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Medical officials investigate Europe facilities after PTSD complaint

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Officials with European Regional Medical Command are investigating whether some troops diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder got better care than others.

The review was initiated in February after a complaint that soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and its clinics received better care following PTSD diagnoses if they were being returned to duty rather than if they were being discharged, according to an ERMC spokesman.

“The specific concern is about the perception that there are more treatment options for members returning to duty than for those who would be leaving the service,” said Shane Sharp, an ERMC spokesman.

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PTSD programs at all 17 European medical facilities, including eight that fall under Landstuhl’s behavioral health program, are being reviewed by a team of ERMC behavioral health experts, Sharp said. The group began visiting the sites Feb. 13, and were expected to finish their review in early March.

“Our primary concern is for the health and well-being of all our soldiers so the decision was made to review the access to behavior health services across Europe Regional Medical Command to ensure all soldiers are receiving the level of care they deserve,” Sharp said

Sharp said that the complaint focused on the so-called Evolution Program, an eight-week day program that began in 2009. It includes art therapy, yoga, meditation classes, substance abuse groups, anger management, grief management, pain management, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and other protocols.

“The program was made for soldiers being returned to duty. It was created for them,” Sharp said.

He said that didn’t mean there weren’t treatment options for troops being discharged.

“Treatment options are available to serve the spectrum of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress,” he said. “These services are usually offered on an outpatient basis, but there are inpatient treatment programs available if the circumstances warrant a more intensive treatment regimen.”

The Europe investigation comes just after an investigation at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state to determine whether psychiatrists there improperly reversed the PTSD diagnoses of least 14 soldiers. In that case, it was alleged that the diagnoses were reversed to save money.

Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD gain at least a 50 percent disability rating and qualify for pensions, family health insurance and other financial benefits.

In the last fiscal year, more than 1,800 servicemembers throughout ERMC received PTSD diagnoses, Sharp said. That number, he said, did not include servicemembers with behavioral health issues that did not meet the full criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.

But determining how many of those troops were returned to duty or discharged could not be tracked, Sharp said.

montgomeryn@estripes.osd.mil

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