Army begins correcting records of diagnoses at Madigan medical center

Changes made after controversy hadn't taken effect

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The Army has begun correcting medical records for former Madigan Army Medical Center patients who left the military with conflicting diagnoses for behavioral health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jeanie Chang, 30, of Tenino learned last month that the Army Review Board for Correction of Medical Records will change her file to reflect the PTSD diagnosis she received at Madigan last year.

Previously, the review board rejected her PTSD diagnosis and refused to correct her records, a decision that cost her disability benefits and left her with a sense that military doctors were misusing her conversations with them.

Chang was among some 400 former Madigan patients who were called back to the hospital last year amid concerns the hospital's forensic psychiatry team was under-diagnosing PTSD to save the Army money in long-term disability benefits. Of those, 158 patients left the review with PTSD diagnoses.

About 20 of them have had trouble persuading the review board to honor their newer diagnoses. Instead, the board favored the forensic psychiatry reports that were at the center of the hospital's PTSD controversy.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., pressed their cases with senior Army leaders. Assistant Secretary of the Army Karl Schneider wrote a memo last month ordering the review board to ignore the forensic psychiatry diagnoses. After the order came down, Chang learned the Army will recognize her diagnosis and award her disability benefits for the next six months.

Chang left the Army in 2011 as a sergeant and is now a civilian employee at Lewis-McChord. She was a sexual assault victim during her time in uniform.

Madigan no longer uses a robust forensic psychiatry team in its medical retirement process, though a subsequent Army investigation found its doctors were doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.

The controversy led the Army to reconsider its criteria for diagnosing PTSD in the interest of getting more care to veterans with symptoms such as sleeplessness, mood swings and depression.