PTSD misdiagnosis scandal leads to firings
|It’s all smiles for Col. Homas; he’s got a sweet job, with no accountability for his actions—even if dozens of wounded soldiers die on his watch.
BY KEVIN BAKER
The author is a former infantry Staff Sergeant—with 28 months in Iraq—who was stationed at Ft. Lewis and went through the medical discharge process at Madigan Healthcare System.
Col. Dallas Homas was administratively removed from his position as head of the Army’s Madigan Healthcare System near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, Army officials announced Feb. 20. Col. Homas, a West Point graduate, had headed the medical center since March 2011.
Col. Homas was removed during an Army inquiry into the practice of intentionally not diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in soldiers. Such a diagnosis entitles one to certain rights, benefits and compensation.
Col. Homas, the commander in charge of making sure soldiers on base are being cared for, denied soldiers their right to medical treatment and other rights to “save taxpayer money”—an absurd statement considering the multi-million dollar defense budget that has unlimited funds for corporate defense contractors, but suddenly “not enough money” when we’re entitled to compensation for legitimate psychological wounds.
Just weeks earlier, two top doctors in charge of PTSD at Ft. Lewis were also fired.
Already, as a result of the inquiry, 14 soldiers have been diagnosed with PTSD after having been being previously misdiagnosed. There is no telling how many more received a bogus diagnosis and are now in Afghanistan, not receiving the treatment they need, and not being awarded the disability and compensation they deserve.
And with record suicides in the Army over the past 3 years—many of which occurred among Ft. Lewis soldiers—it is undeniable that Col. Homas and all other officers and doctors involved in this process have blood on their hands.
Changes a result of public pressure for soldiers, military families, vets
Col. Homas has been removed not because the Army cares about our lives, but because of external pressure. Over the past two years, March Forward! has launched campaign after campaign against the inadequate treatment of soldiers suffering from PTSD. We have exposed several egregious cases to the media, built nationwide pressure through public campaigns, circulated petitions nationwide that garnered thousands of signatures, organized thousands to call and email the Ft. Lewis command, and worked with military family members and soldiers to bring real heat to the officers at Ft. Lewis. In conjunction with our efforts, Ft. Lewis also has at its gates the G.I. coffeehouse Coffee Strong, helping soldiers on base learn about their rights and speak out about mistreatment.
It is no coincidence that the target of so much organizing is now the focus of an Army inquiry and firings.
Col. Homas is typical, not just a bad apple
There is nothing unique about the way Colonial Dallas Homas dealt with soldiers suffering from PTSD who were seeking help. Ft. Lewis is one of the most troubled bases in the U.S. military in regards to suicide.
I remember his predecessor, an officer by the name of Col. Edwards at Madigan hospital when I was just starting my medical discharge process. He interviewed me for roughly thirty seconds before he told the doctors I was fit for duty and had to deploy again. This is what is considered adequate for these officers to make a diagnosis that will impact the rest of our lives—or a diagnosis that will be responsible for soldiers losing them.
They excuse their behavior by accusing us of just faking our symptoms because we are lazy—or, “malingering”. The behavior of officers who accuse service members of “malingering” is not uncommon. What strikes me as odd is that the same officers who will put our lives at risk—but don’t deploy themselves—are so untrusting of enlisted soldiers who have been in combat. They call us “fakers” when we come home from a world they will never see.
The suicides that have taken place at Ft. Lewis are a direct result of the failure of the base and its head officer corps to do anything meaningful to address the crisis of PTSD, as if our lives mean nothing to them.
No accountability for ruining countless lives
Col. Homas has been relieved of his duties and will most likely take a position else where continuing his dishonest work. The Army just needed a cosmetic change—Homas will continue working in a plush office, until he retires with a fat pension. That’s “punishment” for an officer who has been directly responsible for soldier suicides and destroyed families.
Let’s just look at this in comparison for a moment.
If an enlisted soldier loses a pair of night vision goggles, they face a dock in pay, extra duty, restriction to the barracks and demotion in rank. We as enlisted face the harshest punishment even for situations completely out of our control (this was shown during our recent successful campaign against the ridiculous lockdown of B Co., 4/9 Infantry).
But when the head of the mental health department on a base that is on the brink of disaster, continues to refuse to diagnose PTSD, calls soldiers “malingerers” and denies them the right to heal which results in the highest suicide rates among all of the CONUS bases, he is simply relieved of his position and sent somewhere else. Col. Homas’s allegiance, like that of the incoming officer, are not to serve the soldiers but to serve the interests of the Pentagon and protect the funds allotted to the Army.
For the countless lives that have been needlessly lost to suicide at Ft. Lewis, and the families who are suffering, Col. Homas and all other officers and doctors involved in the practice of denying PTSD claims should be brought up on criminal charges.
The Pentagon won’t change things—but we can
Col. Mike Heimall, Homas’ replacement, has no allegiance to enlisted personnel and will continue to function as did Col. Homas and other officers in charge before them. They will continue to attempt to sweep the suicide epidemic under the rug. We can expect no meaningful change from the change of command, except what they are forced to do. The officer corps at Ft. Lewis, Madigan and the crony-healthcare system has not only helped facilitate soldiers’ suicides but they have stolen husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends and loved ones from our lives.
Real change within the military never has nor will it ever come from the top. This change of command is a direct result of our actions as enlisted service members, vets and family and friends to organize and beat the drums of truth. The lies this base spews will continue to kill soldiers who are suffering from untreated PTSD. Ft. Lewis and all those in charge of medical practice who have cheated service members out of their lives should be tried in court and held accountable for their dishonesty that has led to a massive suicide epidemic.