Group Says Military Practices Retaliatory Psychiatric Tests
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The military uses psychiatric examinations and forced hospitalization in mental wards to intimidate and discredit people who disclose wrongdoings, an advocacy group contends.
The Commission on the Reform of Military Medical Abuses, made up of former and current military personnel who say they were victimized for speaking out, said that hundreds of people were being ″taken against their will without due process and locked up in psychiatric hospitals.″
During a two-day gathering that ended Friday, members of the 3-month-old group conferred with members of Congress and wrote President Bush, urging him to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the practice of retaliatory psychiatric testing.
The Pentagon, in response to previous charges, has denied abuses of the medical system and said it is working hard to protect whistleblowers from reprisals.
Former Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jim Manship of Alexandria, Va., said retaliatory testing has ″resulted in the personal destruction″ of many good performers who were conscientious enough to speak out about problems.
Manship said he was ordered to a Navy hospital for psychological evaluation after he complained about a superior he said was obstructing a drug intervention program.
He said that after a five-minute interview, he was classified as an ″obsessive compulsive with narcissistic tendencies″ and had his security clearance removed.
Michael Tufariello of Dallas, a former Navy chief petty officer, showed the slippers pasted with happy faces he was forced to wear when he was locked up in a medical ward for four days.
The 23-year veteran, who has testified before Congress and appeared in several television exposes on alleged medical abuses, said he was hospitalized after reporting payroll fraud at the Dallas Naval Air Station in 1983 and 1984.
″I was wounded in Vietnam, but that (hospitalization) overrode my Vietnam experience,″ Tufariello said. ″A common criminal has more rights than a man in uniform.″
Tufariello, who heads a group called Wounded Eagles, which is similar to the commission, said he has documented 280 cases of retaliatory testing.
Others at the conference refused to give their names, saying the stigma of having psychiatric testing on their military records has made it difficult to get jobs.
One man said he was administratively discharged in April after serving 11 years as an Air Force linguist. He said he was declared to have a personality disorder after filing five complaints with the military inspector general.
″We lost our careers, we lost our credibility,″ he said.
A former Navy doctor said she was suspended from duty after it was discovered she had written her congressmen about a job dispute. She said that in the next months she was put in a psychiatric ward for a week, tied in leather restraints, diagnosed as having a severe personality disorder and charged with wounding a member of a SWAT team that broke into her apartment.
She said that after nine months in solitary confinement she was declared incompetent to stand trial and was given an honorable discharge.
Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who in 1990 introduced a bill banning psychiatric examinations to punish military whistleblowers, said in a statement to the group that she was ″appalled to learn ... that this barbaric practice exists in our military establishment.″
She said she has again proposed such a ban and the House has included it in next year’s defense authorization bill.