DENVER The Army is making a "dramatic turn" in how it handles soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, a member of a veterans group investigating mental health care at Fort Carson said Wednesday.
After two days of closed-door meetings with commanders and congressional staffers at the post, Steve Robinson said commanders have agreed to do a better job educating officers about the condition and take steps to amend the records of wrongly diagnosed soldiers.
"I believe the Army has made a dramatic turn. ... I think we're going to see a cultural sea change, and I think we just have to continue to monitor it to make sure that it happens," said Robinson, of Veterans for America, in a conference call with reporters.
More medical and case workers will be needed to help the Army treat soldiers, he said, noting the problems at Fort Carson are being seen across the military.
Soldiers working with the advocacy group who have PTSD say that they haven't been given enough one-on-one counseling to recover and that the Army has offered to diagnose a personality disorder to give them a quicker, honorable discharge.
But personality disorders are considered a pre-existing condition, cutting them off from military health coverage and possibly making it harder to find a job.
Robinson's group claims that some soldiers have been criticized for their job performance, despite getting inadequate treatment.
Robinson said commanders have agreed to take "corrective action" against those who have taken wrong actions in dealing with soldiers with mental health problems. Fort Carson spokeswoman Karen Linne confirmed that but declined to comment further on the meetings.
Robinson also said that 4th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey W. Hammond agreed to review the records of about 40 former soldiers who believe their discharges were mishandled and that, if he agrees, Fort Carson will send letters to help them amend their records so they can restore their benefits.
Problems range from misdiagnoses of personality disorders to soldiers who were dishonorably discharged for substance abuse without being offered treatment first, he said.
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Robinson said Hammond's pledge came during a meeting with him on Tuesday. Linne said she had no knowledge of it and said it was not discussed at a final briefing for the veterans' advocates, congressional staffers and commanders who attended the meetings.
Spc. Alex Lotero, who participated in the meetings, said his PTSD was diagnosed in November after serving in Iraq. He said he gets a casual, half-hour monthly session with a therapist and gave up going to recommended group therapy meetings. He said they were mostly a time for people to complain about problems with their unit.
Lotero said he has been told to take a personality disorder discharge. "I am not going to get kicked out of the Army with nothing," he said.