Monday, November 29, 2010

Guardsman, Army at odds over PTSD claim

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Nov 29, 2010 14:33:57 EST

Staff Sgt. Francisco Carrillo was a squad leader on patrol in Iraq search ing for weapons and insurgents, riding in the lead vehicle of a convoy when an improvised explosive device ripped through one of the Humvees, injuring his platoon sergeant, another squad leader in his company and the gunner.

That was five years ago. Today, Carrillo is locked in a battle with the Army. He says he has suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder since he returned from the deployment in 2005.

The Army says he’s lying.

Carrillo, who has 18 years of service, is seeking medical retirement.

But a panel of doctors at Madigan Army Medical Center said the California National Guardsman with the 649th Engineer Company lied in his Fit for Duty Evaluation and faked PTSD symptoms to collect the benefits that come with medical retirement.

PTSD claims, lies or truth?

The panel recommended Carrillo return to duty and remain eligible to deploy.

Carrillo’s platoon sergeant from Iraq respectfully disagrees. He said the 29 Purple Hearts awarded to his company of 105 soldiers proves the level of violence Carrillo’s unit sustained.

Carrillo’s company was assigned to provide security for Joint Base Balad. As a squad leader, Carrillo went on patrols searching for IEDs and executing raids to capture weapons and insurgents.

“I was surprised when I heard he got denied,” s aid retired Sgt. 1st Class Norman Valdez, who was injured in the attack and has shrapnel in his body. “I have it and a lot of the soldiers working under me have it.”

Madigan’s rejection of Carillo’s PTSD claims comes as the Pentagon is trying to reduce the stigma of PTSD and encourage soldiers to come forward.

In July, the Veterans Affairs Department announced it would reduce the proof required for soldiers to seek PTSD treatment and benefits. Soldiers no longer need to provide written statements to prove they saw combat.

Many soldiers have said they suspect the Army has failed to diagnose soldiers with PTSD to save money.

Madigan doctors cited money as Carrillo’s motivation for faking his symptoms. If medically retired, Carrillo would recei ve his retirement pay immediately rather than wait until age 60, provided he finished his 20 years in the Guard.

John Wickham, a lawyer who has represented veterans with PTSD, was surprised.

“I find it incredible that an 18-year veteran, senior [noncommissioned officer] and technician with unblemished performance records would suddenly concoct a vast fraudulent scheme,” Wickham said after reviewing Carrillo’s Fit for Duty report.

The California National Guard and Madigan Army Medical Center did not comment, citing privacy laws.

When Carrillo returned to his home in Chico, Calif., he said he turned to alcohol to numb himself. Carrillo knew he needed help. He said he suffered from nightmares, difficulty sleeping, hyper-vigilance, avoidance and obsessing.< o>

He went to Darryl Lyons, the therapist with the 649th Engineer Company who diagnosed him with PTSD in 2006. In addition to Lyons, seven medical professionals have diagnosed Carrillo with PTSD. Carrillo has visited Stephen Diggs, a Chico, Calif., psychologist, once a week for the past two years.

“It was undeniable he had this,” said Diggs, who treats four other Iraq veterans suffering from PTSD.

“He will wake up and go to work and live his life in a way, but it doesn’t mean he’s not suffering from this,” said Diggs, who Carrillo allowed to speak to a reporter about his medical history.

In the Fit for Duty evaluation, the report cited Carrillo’s ability to earn his master’s degree and his marriage to his wife, Casey, followin g his return from deployment as proof he was faking the symptoms.

The panel also cited inconsistencies in Carrillo’s testimony specifically when compared to an interview Madigan’s doctors did with 1st Sgt. Darrell Taylor, the 649th Engineer Battalion’s first sergeant. Madigan did not contact Valdez or retired Staff Sgt. Mike Gilmore, who was a squad leader with Carrillo in the company.

Taylor stated that Carrillo was “never involved in a firefight or in a vehicle that was hit with an IED.”

But Gilmore said he remembers Carrillo taking charge of the convoy after the attack. Carrillo raced back to the Humvee and called for a medevac, Gilmore said.

Carrillo said he has tried to appeal the decision and contacted his congressman, Rep. Wally Herge r. With his enlistment over at the end of November, he is resigned to separating two years from reaching his 20-year mark.

“After 18 years of service, nothing is more shaming and demeaning to a soldier than not being heard, believed and being discredited,” Carrillo wrote in a letter to Madigan Army Medical Center.

Guardsman, Army at odds over PTSD claim


I do not know on how many levels that this is JUST wrong, being accused of fraud after 18 years of honorable service is the way to tell other soldiers NOT to seek help for PTSD as they will be accused of fraud, malingering the past 5 years of teaching veterans to come forward and seek help will soon be lost if combat veterans are being accued of fraud for financial gain, soon all we will have is the Army and National Guard units full of many soldiers with PTSD and alcohol problems and other issues, broken marriages, abused kids, lost jobs, bad discharges etc I see a return to the Army of the 1970s again if this is allowed to be the way the Army proceeds forward on PTSD cases.

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