LAKEWOOD, Wash. – Washington Senator Patty Murray has introduced legislation to overhaul the mental health system for war veterans. The move comes in the wake of a scandal at Washington’s Madigan Army Hospital. Doctors there incorrectly told dozens of soldiers they didn’t suffer from PTSD. One of those soldiers was Richard Kellar.
Richard Kellar has entered year six of his fight to regain his life after getting blown up in Iraq. Doctors had to re-attach his nose. He has a Traumatic Brain Injury. And then there are the emotional wounds of war. Flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia.
“Sometimes I’ll wake up screaming battle orders,” Kellar says.
These are classic signs of PTSD. And that was Kellar’s diagnosis. That is until two years ago when he went to the Forensic Psychiatry Clinic at Madigan Army Hospital to see whether he qualified for permanent medical retirement.
The answer was “yes,” but the results were not what Kellar expected.
“'The psychological test findings were not consistent with the diagnosis of a major mental disorder such as PTSD,'” Kellar reads from the report.
Not only that, the report said he had “clearly embellished” some of his symptoms.
Kellar was “crushed.”
“To get wounded and then be called a liar, I was angry," he says. "For the first time I was really angry at the Army because I felt like I was being thrown away.”
Then, earlier this year, Kellar was invited to get re-assessed for PTSD. There were widespread allegations the Forensic Psychiatry Unit at Madigan was routinely denying troubled soldiers a PTSD diagnosis.
Washington Senator Patty Murray led the effort to give soldiers a second look.
“My concern is that every single soldier who has a mental health disability -– PTSD -– gets the support that they need and they’re adequately cared for,” Murray says.
Murray’s office says so far more than 100 soldiers have had their PTSD diagnosis restored. Former Staff Sgt. Richard Kellar just received his results.
“'It appears that the Staff Sgt. has constantly been experiencing symptoms of PTSD since returning from his deployment and that his PTSD symptoms do not appear to have gone into remission,'” the report reads.
Kellar says the new diagnosis may or may not affect his disability rating and pay. But he says that’s not the point. Most important to him: he feels vindicated.
On the Web:
Three Years Later, Wash. Soldier Still Struggles With Brain Injury (July 19, 2010)
Summary - Mental Health ACCESS Act: