Personality Disorder: Deliberate Misdiagnosis

by Elizabeth Cunningham

I am doing research and taking alarming diagnostic tests online, because of an article in The Nation Disposable Soldiers” by Joshua Kors that highlights the case of Chuck Luther , a soldier discharged from the army after multiple tours of duty and exposure to combat conditions with a supposed diagnosis of Personality Disorder. Considered a pre-existing condition, this diagnosis permits the army to deny the soldier a lifetime of disability benefits and long-term medical care. And to add salt to the wound, a soldier also has to give back a portion of their re-enlistment bonus, which may exceed the amount of a final paycheck. In short, it is entirely within the military’s financial interest to overlook an alleged pre-existing condition during recruitment screening and then discover it later after a soldier has suffered trauma or brain injury.

This suspect practice has been going on for years. In 2007 then Senator Obama introduced a bill to stop all PD discharges. It was defeated, and the PD discharges are ongoing. Joshua Kors writes:

“Since 2001 more than 22,600 soldiers have been discharged with personality disorder. That number includes soldiers who have served two and three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Typing Personality Disorder into my browser, I soon discovered the
ICD-10 general diagnostic criteria, which includes the following:

There must be evidence that the deviation is stable and of long duration, having its onset in late childhood or adolescence.

Organic brain disease, injury, or dysfunction must be excluded as the possible cause of the deviation.

These two criteria alone call into question the plethora of military discharges for PD. If a diagnosis requires evidence that the deviation is “stable and of long duration,” why wasn’t it made during a medical screening process or discovered during basic training? And in combat situations, how can a brain injury be ruled out? In Chuck Luther’s case a mortar exploded in his guard house and slammed his head into a cement wall. He suffered partial loss of hearing, blindness in one eye, debilitating migraines, persistent shoulder pain but was given (and ultimately forced to accept) a discharge for PD.

A much more common and accurate diagnosis for soldiers who have seen combat is Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Of course it cannot be dismissed as pre-existing. In this country there are sharp divisions of opinion about the two wars we continue to fight. Let’s unify in holding our military and our government accountable for fair recompense and respectful care for returning soldiers. If we cannot afford to treat the wounds of war—physical, psychological, and spiritual— we should not be asking our soldiers to suffer them.

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Elizabeth Cunningham April 20, 2010 - 9:39 pm

Maeve speaking: I am living in the first century when Rome was the organized military power with armies on fronts as far apart as Britain and Judea. At the moment, I am on the isle of Mona (Anglesey) which is shortly to be razed, as will, a decade or so later, the Temple of Jerusalem. All of which is to say war, why it is made, how it is suffered, are very much on my mind, too. May peace prevail.


Anonymous April 21, 2010 - 12:25 pm

The injustice in Kors' case (and thousands of others like his) is infuriating. What a great little racket the military has going! Thank you for bringing it to our attention. A disturbing but important blog–thank you!

Unknown April 21, 2010 - 1:22 pm

Support the troops! Send them to war!

Then bring them home and say: "There was something wrong with you from the beginning, because now you're not acting right. And don't tell me it was that bomb next to your ear!"

The war party is all hot to send soldiers to war, they just don't want to pay for it, or acknowledge the damage to our young men and women.

To me, this treatment of soldiers posits the question: maybe they shouldn't be fighting in these faraway places, anyway.

Meredith Gould April 21, 2010 - 3:34 pm

Highly recommend this new book by Dr. Charles W. Hoge (Colonel, US Army, ret.) about PTSD and mTBI: Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home (GPP).

faerian April 21, 2010 - 6:41 pm

i lived and love in South Africa at a time when they were conscripting young boys to the army and sending them off to fight in South West Africa and then in their own country in a futile attempt to uphold the apartheid regime.

when these boys came home and got drunk they talked of shooting children out of fear in the dark…and my love there was very silent about his army time but one dark night he told me about they were sent to rallies and marches and he was a sniper and his commanders would pick certain men from the rally and he would shoot them

he told me about this in abject grief at a time when Mandela was newly elected and he learned that the men he had been taught to hate were intelligent, articulate, wise. It was indescribable horror for him realising he had shot men who could have lead his country.

For the people in power to take men who are forever damaged in this way,not even beginning to comment on whether the war is legitimate or justifiable or not- and then treat them this badly is disgraceful…

Shawna Atteberry April 21, 2010 - 10:22 pm

I had no idea this was happening. Thank you for the article and the resources.

Is this going up on HuffPo? It should.

Anonymous April 21, 2010 - 10:53 pm

Great post, Elizabeth. Some interesting comments here too. I got curious about this topic and fell asleep reading last night. Since I've not had my morning coffee yet, I'll be very frank: the whole thing is a croc of shit. Anyone with even rudimentary training regarding Axis II conditions can spot one within a short interview. So I do not believe some of the claims that the armed forces do not screen for PDs. What rubbish. They just turn a blind eye until it suits them not to. Furthermore, many of us who do not meet the full diagnosable criteria would find that we possess enough traits to have a diagnosis thrown our way if it suited someone's agenda. And in this case, it clearly does. If we have experienced any kind of traumatic or highly stressful event, our chances of receiving an Axis II diagnosis then inches toward 100%. Were the ramifications of these bogus diagnoses not so vile, the entire situation would be laughable. It's that ridiculous. But instead, it's utterly disgusting.

Anonymous April 24, 2010 - 12:26 pm

Our country has a long and shameful history of treating its soldiers miserably–in the 1930s, Hoover ordered troops to use bayonets and gunfire on the WWI veterans and their families who were encamped near the White House simply asking for the pensions they had been promised.


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