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MediaWatch:TV
U.S. Military
PTSD Sufferers Being Sent Back to Iraq
Boston News Station Reports Pentagon Violating Own Regulations
11/13/2007 1:53 PM ET
MCALLEN, TEXAS - JULY 21: A US servicemember drinks water to wash down one of four anti-depression and anxiety drugs he takes for PTSD.
Chris Hondros/Getty
MCALLEN, TEXAS - JULY 21: A US servicemember drinks water to wash down one of four anti-depression and anxiety drugs he takes for PTSD.

One could say the Pentagon has declared war on PTSD. In the past year, the US military has worked to expand awareness of the disorder's symptoms to improve the rate of diagnosis, and to remove some of the associated stigma so troops won't fear seeking help.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates accepted the dozens of recommendations made by the DoD's Task Force on Mental Health, which released its study of the military's mental health care in June.

New proposals seek more frequent mental health screenings of troops who have served in combat, and an expansion of the medical and professional personnel tasked with evaluating and treating those suffering from persistent memories of trauma.

Despite this new offensive against the devastating disorder, a Boston news station reports that the Pentagon has been violating its own regulations by re-deploying troops suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.

Pentagon regulations guiding the determination on deploying troops with psychiatric concerns, released in November 2006, state that any troop with a diagnosed mental health condition must "demonstrate a pattern of stability without significant symptoms for three months prior to deployment."

WCVB-TV in Boston reports twenty-five-year-old Damian Fernandez from Waterbury, Conn got order to re-deploy, even though doctors classified him as 70% disabled by PTSD.

"All day long he was just getting more and more agitated until he said he was going to kill himself rather than go back," his mother said.

Russell Anderson, 50 percent disabled by PTSD, chose to go back to the front lines. And the Army allowed it.

"I don't believe in another circumstance with the war, that Russell would be redeployed with his PTSD," his girlfriend Catherine Colone said. "But in this war, there just aren't enough soldiers."

One day after Michael DeVlieger was released from an Army hospital in Kentucky for acute stress disorder, he got the redeployment order. Now he's on the front lines.

"The closer that it got, he kept saying 'Mom I'm going to die, I'm not coming back this time. I'm feeling it, I'm dreaming it. I'm not coming back,'" said Sue DeVlieger, his mother.

Despite the DoD's three-month rule, the National Guard told WCVB its policy "is based on the severity of their PTSD diagnosis...that may limit their ability to deploy."

The Army says it's "individualized" and that they "do not want to stigmatize the soldiers by saying they cannot deploy with their unit because they have symptoms."

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