April 10, 2009 | In two stories published this week, Salon has described how a soldier secretly taped a psychologist saying that the Army was exerting pressure not to diagnose soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychologist Douglas McNinch of Fort Carson, Colo., twice states on the recording that the Army discourages PTSD diagnoses.
If what McNinch says on the tape is true, why is it happening? Why would the Army purposely diagnose soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with something other than PTSD? Combat stress is as real as your big toe. Why would the Army want to deny, or at least minimize, a known consequence of combat? The truth might rest in math.
Soldiers with PTSD present the Army with two problems, both involving scary numbers. First, soldiers suffering serious combat stress should not be returned to combat, and if they cannot fight they represent a significant manpower loss for an already stretched military. A recent Rand Corp. study estimates that nearly 20 percent of those Army troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan might suffer from PTSD or major depression. If they were all barred from the battlefield, the Army could lose as many as one out of every five combat troops while trying to fight two wars.