Army Keeps A Lid On Madigan PTSD Investigation

Feb 11, 2013

The Army says it won’t release the investigation into how Madigan Army Medical Center handled some soldiers' diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder. The denial comes one week after the Secretary of the Army visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, to announce the completion of an Army-wide review on the same subject.

The review was ordered by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It was triggered by an investigation at Madigan Army Medical Center. Army Secretary John McHugh told reporters the review resulted in 47 recommendations and 24 findings. Last week he said he would work to make portions of that Army-wide review available, telling reporters, “I’m not here to design any kind of cover-up." 

At the time reporters were frustrated. Some had filed requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act for similar data from a local investigation at Madigan. Those requests had been mostly denied on the basis that the information was "pre-decisional," because it would be used in a broader review of Army programs. 

McHugh said he was unfamiliar with reporters' requests.

Within days, The Seattle Times, The News Tribune of Tacoma and KUOW learned their requests and subsequent appeals had been denied. All wanted information regarding an investigation into soldiers' complaints about Madigan’s forensic psychiatry team.

The team had reversed hundreds of PTSD diagnoses.

Many of those diagnoses were eventually restored after the soldiers were re-examined by behavioral health doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. The restored diagnoses let some soldiers who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan receive benefits for PTSD.

In its denial letter to reporters, the Army said the Madigan investigations should remain exempt from public disclosure because they contain confidential material that shaped Army decisions.

The news outlets have exhausted their appeal options under the Freedom of Information Act.