The New York Times printed an article this morning on ‘Personality Disorder’ and what it means when the army decides you have it. It’s an eye-opening read and it should be read in it’s entirely, but here’s a brief synopsis.
Capt. Susan Carlson was not a typical recruit when she volunteered for the Army in 2006 at the age of 50. But the Army desperately needed behavioral health professionals like her, so it signed her up.
Though she was, by her own account, “not a strong soldier,” she received excellent job reviews at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she counseled prisoners. But last year, Captain Carlson, a social worker, was deployed to Afghanistan with the Colorado National Guard and everything fell apart.
After a soldier complained that she had made sexually suggestive remarks, she was suspended from her counseling duties and sent to an Army psychiatrist for evaluation. His findings were shattering: She had, he said in a report, a personality disorder, a diagnosis that the military has used to discharge thousands of troops. She was sent home.
She disputed the diagnosis, but it was not until months later that she found what seemed powerful ammunition buried in her medical file, portions of which she provided to The New York Times. “Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a personality disorder,” a document signed by the psychiatrist said.
Veterans’ advocates say Captain Carlson stumbled upon evidence of something they had long suspected but had struggled to prove: that military commanders pressure clinicians to issue unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of troops.
“Since 2001, the military has discharged at least 31,000 service members because of personality disorder, a family of disorders broadly characterized by inflexible “maladaptive” behavior that can impair performance and relationships.
For years, veterans’ advocates have said that the Pentagon uses the diagnosis to discharge troops because it considers them troublesome or wants to avoid giving them benefits for service-connected injuries. The military considers personality disorder a pre-existing problem that emerges in youth, and as a result, troops given the diagnosis are often administratively discharged without military retirement pay. Some have even been required to repay enlistment bonuses.
By comparison, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is usually linked to military service and leads to a medical discharge accompanied by certain benefits.
Though it is impossible to know how many veterans are disputing their personality disorder discharges, Vietnam Veterans of America, an advocacy group, with help from the Yale veterans legal clinic, has sued the Defense Department seeking records they say will show that thousands of troops have been unfairly discharged for personality or adjustment disorder since 2001.
Shining Service Worldwide is a charitable organization that supports all women who are part of the military family. Our goal is successful re-integration back into civilian life.