Matthew Marino was sent back to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty after the Army diagnosed him with “anxiety disorder” instead of post-traumatic stress disorder.
April 10, 2009 | Matthew Marino served five years in the Army and was deployed to fight in Afghanistan twice. He began to suffer from symptoms typical of post-traumatic stress disorder following his first tour. After returning to Fort Drum, N.Y. in late 2004, he couldn’t lose the hyper-alertness he’d developed in Afghanistan. He had thoughts of suicide, was nervous, had nightmares, couldn’t sleep, and stayed away from family and friends.
Despite his symptoms, however, the Army diagnosed the first lieutenant with anxiety disorder instead of PTSD. He was also diagnosed with depression and given antidepressants. The Army then “stop-lossed” Marino, to prevent him from leaving the Army although his time was up. He was shipped back to Afghanistan for a second tour in 2006. A diagnosis of PTSD might have kept him from being redeployed and sent back into combat; a diagnosis of anxiety disorder did not.
In two stories published this week, Salon has described how a soldier secretly taped an Army psychologist named Douglas McNinch saying that the Army was exerting pressure on him not to diagnose soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to McNinch, the Army preferred that he diagnose soldiers with anxiety disorder instead — the same diagnosis Marino received. Marino’s experience is a case study in what happens when Army medical care is influenced by the need to keep soldiers on the battlefield and the need to hold down the cost of long-term disability payments.