The Vietnam Veteran’s Database: A Legitimate Source of Data or a Government Fallacy?

Hey guys!  Because my group presentation on PTSD was somewhat rushed, I didn’t really get a chance to completely develop or support my argument against using the Vietnam Veteran database in statistical analyses.  Melissa pointed out that the army is obligated by law to publicly document statistics such as the prevalence of different pathologies (such at PTSD).  While it is true that they must publish figures that accurately portray such diagnoses, there report does not have to address the legitimacy of the doctor’s assessment.

I found one article in “Salon Magazine” that reiterates and elaborates upon this claim:

While Salon may not exactly be the leading source of accurate knowledge concerning cutting edge research in modern psychology, the article is quite detailed and even includes sound-bytes.  The story begins with Sergeant X, whose real identity is never revealed.  A veteran of the Iraq war, Sgt. X has been trying to obtain treatment for his obvious and distressing case of PTSD for over a year.  Despite not being able to successfully obtain the financial compensation that he needs because of the armies “confusing disability payment plan,” Sgt. X’s symptoms are so bad that his wife needs to accompany him to every appointment.  Should she not pay attention, Sgt. X will eventually forget everything that the doctor told him due to the severity of his PTSD.  When his wife could not attend a meeting, she would send her husband off with a tape recorder, lest he forget the doctor’s advice.  What one tape revealed proved quite shocking.

The tape can be found here:

As this audio clip shows, the doctors promptly informed Sgt. X that they were reluctant to diagnose him with PTSD because they had been previously advised not to.  While the government may or may not care about the number of diagnoses being made with respect to public opinion, they certainly realize that PTSD treatments often require months to years of legitimate therapy.  Thus the treatments for such care prove far more costly than pharmaceutical treatments for similar but less intense disorders.  PTSD treatment plans have even been known to include lifetime disability payment.  The article points advises us to remain skeptical of diagnoses such as “anxiety disorder” or “personality disorder”, which may actually serve as an excuse to withhold the money that these soldiers actually need for treatment.

Salon magazine provides further evidence to support their point as well.  In the article, the author states:

“The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, last October questioned why 2,800 war veterans were labeled with personality disorder diagnoses, another cheap label the Army has been accused of plastering on soldiers instead of PTSD.

In November 2005 the Department of Veterans Affairs halted a review of 72,000 veterans who receive monthly disability payments for mental trauma from war. The department wanted to make sure the veterans were not faking their symptoms. Salon first exposed the review that August. Then Daniel L. Cooper, the V.A.’s undersecretary for benefits, told Salon at the time that, “We have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the rating system and to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going to those who deserve and have earned them.”  The department stopped the process a month after a Vietnam veteran in New Mexico, agitated over the review, shot himself to death in protest.

In early 2005, Salon exposed a pattern of medical officials searching to pin soldiers’ problems on childhood trauma instead of combat stress at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.”

Just to play devils advocate, I will say Salon has been criticized as being a biased, pro=leftist tabloid (courtesy of Wikipedia…) However, I still feel as though they drive home a compelling point here.  This evidence provides support for the opinion that psychologists should not rely on the Vietnam War database as statistical sources, or that they should always question the legitimacy of such sources at the very least.

One thought on “The Vietnam Veteran’s Database: A Legitimate Source of Data or a Government Fallacy?

  1. ughh I feel like this happens way too often- people giving diagnoses that are
    1) not true but they think the patient will most benefit from, or
    2) not true but they are trying to limit costs.

    Obviously our country is immensely in debt, but I really don’t support misdiagnosing people to gain some of that money back. Diagnoses and the treatments that follow are serious, and I think a lot of people in power get caught up in numbers and forget that they are dealing with real people’s lives.


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