Saturday’s New York Times featured this Page One report about the U.S. military using “personality disorder” diagnoses to discharge thousands of soldiers and save billions of dollars.
Since 2001, the military has discharged at least 31,000 service members because of personality disorder, a family of disorders broadly characterized by inflexible “maladaptive” behavior that can impair performance and relationships.
For years, veterans’ advocates have said that the Pentagon uses the diagnosis to discharge troops because it considers them troublesome or wants to avoid giving them benefits for service-connected injuries. The military considers personality disorder a pre-existing problem that emerges in youth, and as a result, troops given the diagnosis are often administratively discharged without military retirement pay. Some have even been required to repay enlistment bonuses.
The Times says this issue has arisen because “In recent weeks, questions about whether the Army manipulates psychiatric diagnoses to save money have been raised at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., where soldiers undergoing medical evaluations before discharge complained that psychiatrists rescinded PTSD diagnoses, leaving the soldiers with diagnoses like personality disorder that did not qualify them for medical discharges.”
The Times is actually five years late to the party.
A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans’ rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.
They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like [Purple Heart recipient Jon] Town and that it’s doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses.
The Times glancingly references the Nation piece with a web link, but never explicitly acknowledges its groundbreaking report:
Although the number of personality disorder discharges is small relative to the total number of troops who have served since 2001, Congress was concerned enough about the issue to hold hearings in 2007 after reading reports that troops with post-traumatic stress and other combat-related injuries were being discharged for personality disorder.
Bad form, Gray Lady. Exceedingly bad form.