Dishonorable Discharge: A WAFF 48 News Special Report - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Dishonorable Discharge: A WAFF 48 News Special Report

The VVA believes vets are being misdiagnosed instead of being diagnosed with PTSD to save the government benefits money. The VVA believes vets are being misdiagnosed instead of being diagnosed with PTSD to save the government benefits money.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

It's one of the invisible wounds of war: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's been documented and diagnosed in past wars, but is it being under-diagnosed in our current returning warriors?

The Vietnam Veterans of America believe so and they filed a federal lawsuit to gather information to back up their suspicions. They believe these vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning from the battlefield with scars no one could see, but are mislabeled as having a personality disorder instead of PTSD. Personality Disorder discharge does not come with benefits, but PTSD does.

While not literal, the VVA believes many of those who served in recent combat may be facing a form of "dishonorable" discharge.

Right now, all branches of service are under fire and are re-evaluating how they diagnose PTSD thanks to some devoted veterans from VVA.

Dr. Wayne Reynolds spent a year on the battlefield, but it seemed like a lifetime.

From 1968-1969, Reynolds was with the 95th Evacuation and 22nd Surgical Hospitals as a medevac medic. He saw bloodshed he can't describe. He returned stateside with medical and mental health issues that took years for doctors to pinpoint and treat.

He was diagnosed with PTSD a long time after he left the military.

Reynolds said he doesn't want service men and women to endure the suffering he and other Vietnam vets have.

While his tour in Southeast Asia may be over, he's on another mission: to make sure current service men and women returning from the Middle East get the correct diagnosis and the dollars they are due.

"To say we didn't trust the Department of Defense or didn't trust the VA is a gross understatement," said Reynolds.

Reynolds is the Alabama State President of Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Treasurer. He knows numbers. He has degrees in research and statistics. He and others with the group, knowing their own experiences, believed a greater number of recent vets, many of whom served multiple tours of duty, were being under-diagnosed to save the Pentagon billions.

VVA filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to try to back up its claims that the Department of Defense was discharging veterans with a diagnosis of Personality Disorder instead of PTSD, in order to save money.

According to Reynolds, in the last 10 years, the VVA has found that 31,000 individuals misdiagnosed.

They were told, "You had a personality disorder and that's why you're having nightmares and all those normal behaviors that are associated with PTSD. It appears to us organizationally that there was a systematic desire to limit the number of PTSD cases," said Reynolds. "Personality Disorder discharge prevents the soldier from ever receiving PTSD treatment or compensation from the VA and that's just not right."

After years of dogging, the military is finally listening. In the last month, the Army Surgeon General told Congress that her branch of the service is re-evaluating how it diagnoses soldiers with PTSD.

"As we began to analyze the data and present it back to DOD, the number of Personality Disorder discharges has dropped dramatically," said Reynolds.

Rick Marquith is on the front lines helping returning vets. He's a veterans advocate with the non-profit Still Serving Veterans and has the files to prove it. He, too, suffers from "pieces" of PTSD, but he doesn't believe there is a grand conspiracy to under diagnose recent vets to save money. Benefit wise, though, he says there's a lot on the line.

"It goes from nothing - being shut out of the VA as far as benefits - to up to $50-75,000 a year," he said.

Dr. Wayne Reynolds said he and other members of the VVA want answers.

"We just want the truth. We want a complete re-evaluation. We want Congress to look at it. We want both the House and Senate's Armed Services committee to look at what's happening to our soldiers and make sure it's right. We knew how we had to fight for our diagnosis and our military benefits, so we're going to engage and fight for whoever follows us," said Reynolds.

Reynolds and Marquith don't know how many men and women in Alabama may be walking around today suffering with PTSD and not getting benefits or treatment, but they do hope that by spreading the word that they care and want to help that they can make a difference. They just want vets to get connected and possibly be reclassified. Free treatment for PTSD for combat vets (of any war, since sometimes PTSD manifests years later) is available at the Vet Center on Church Street in downtown Huntsville. The key with the Vet Center is you don't need an "official" diagnosis from the military to get help there.

If you are no longer active duty and believe you have PTSD but have been labeled as having a "personality disorder," Dr. Reynolds wants to hear from you.

You can email him at drwaynereynolds@aol.com or wreynolds@vva.org.

You might also contact Rick Marquith at Still Serving Veterans on Spragins in downtown Huntsville at is 256-883-7035.

Currently, the VVA is awaiting a court date on whether it will get the mental health discharge information it's asking for. Right now, it's negotiating with the DOD outside the federal court system to try to obtain the information.

Copyright 2012 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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