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Recently released documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are further proof the VA has failed to adequately address the crisis in veterans' mental health care, according to a former top VA employee turned veterans' advocate.
In March, Norma J. Perez, the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coordinator at a VA facility in Temple, Texas, wrote an email (PDF) to her subordinates stating: "Given that we have more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, R/O [ruling out] PTSD ... we really don't or have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD."
In response, VA secretary James Peake said that the VA is "committed to absolute accuracy in a diagnosis and unwavering in providing any and all earned benefits. PTSD and the mental health arena is no exception." Peake placed the blame on Perez, saying that the memo revealed the mistake of a single employee, not VA policy.
However, the VA has been under fire from Congress and veterans' rights groups for more than a year for allegedly covering up and underreporting the mental health care crisis among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A lawsuit that is currently awaiting a final ruling seeks to force the VA to move quickly in addressing the mental and physical health needs of veterans.