Diagnosis kills veteran’s benefits

Christopher Gearhart served 13 years in the military. He would have put in more time were it not for a hospitalization, a diagnosis and a discharge last year.

While on duty last December, Gearhart, 35, of Cape Coral fell into a state of mania.
He doesn’t remember much, only that he was going nonstop, 24 hours a day. It was worse than being drunk, Gearhart said. Colleagues would recount what he did or said, and Gearhart could recall none of it.

The soldier was sent to a private psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a chemical imbalance that causes his emotions to swing wildly — from mania to depression. His discharge came soon after, and with it, the military washed its hands of him, he says.

Gearhart is receiving no Veterans Administration benefits. He has no job, no disability pay, and most critically, no health benefits. He is managing his illness with whatever drug samples doctors at Lee Mental Health are able to find for him. The drugs otherwise cost $2,000 a month, Gearhart said. He said U.S. Army officials reclassified his bipolar disease as a “personality disorder,” which covers such things as antisocial, obsessive or histrionic behaviors.

{The VA is accessing veterans’ personal health information without consent to justify discharge and denial of veterans’ benefits. The VA appears to be doing this to cut the high costs of providing medical care. Veterans’ medical records are searched for pre-existing conditions or symptoms to justify altering diagnoses, so veterans can be discharged from military service and disqualified from receiving any veterans’ benefits. These practices are identical to those of some private insurers. Private insurers also search past medical treatment records for information that could justify altering patient diagnoses, in order to deny treatment and benefits, even after the treatment has been provided. Those who retroactively change patients’ diagnoses to save costs are NOT physicians who actually treat these patients, but VA or insurance company employees. The VA abuses triggered a congressional inquiry last summer. Representative Hare and Senator Obama of Illinois filed legislation to place a moratorium on the military mal\king anymore diagnoses of “personality disorder.” The real problem is patients do not control access to their sensitive medical records. Employers and the government should never have access to personal health information–the temptation is too great to use that information to harm people. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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