KOAA omitted key details of PTSD treatment for Fort Carson soldiers

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

During a February 14 report on the treatment of soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA omitted key information about the base's new program to train troops to recognize the symptoms. The station ignored widely reported allegations that Fort Carson soldiers were denied help or punished for seeking treatment for the disorder.

A February 14 report by Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA News First omitted important details regarding the treatment of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the Fort Carson military base in Colorado Springs. The video version of its report, available on the KOAA website, stated that PTSD "cases slip through the cracks, or symptoms may go unnoticed." But it failed to note, as The Denver Post did in a February 14 article (an online version appeared February 13), that Fort Carson "has come under scrutiny by the media and members of Congress after soldiers complained they were denied help ... because they couldn't cope with mental-health problems."

In the KOAA report, anchor Rob Quirk stated, "How the U.S. military is dealing with PTSD is a major concern to soldiers and their families ... Fort Carson is teaching soldiers how to recognize the warning signs through a new mandatory class." Later in the segment, military reporter Mark Hanrahan stated, "According to Fort Carson, as many as 20 percent of returning soldiers report symptoms. In the last two years, more than 15 hundred cases have been reported. Leadership says proper help is always available and says soldiers are not punished when asking for mental help." Hanrahan further reported, "Still, cases slip through the cracks, or symptoms may go unnoticed. That's part of this training -- teaching soldiers how to look out for one another."

However, KOAA ignored the widely reported controversy that preceded the mandatory PTSD training at Fort Carson, including allegations that soldiers were punished for seeking treatment for the disorder.

The Associated Press, for example, reported on January 26 that allegations of inadequate treatment or punishment at Fort Carson "were made by soldiers who said their superiors refused to allow them to seek treatment for mental health problems. One was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder."

A July 12, 2006, CBS News report stated, "In the face of what some are calling an epidemic of PTSD in the military, nearly a dozen soldiers at Fort Carson told CBS News that their cries for mental health (sic) either went unanswered or they found themselves subject to unrelenting abuse and ridicule." Similarly, National Public Radio reported on December 4, 2006, that its "investigation at Colorado's Ft. Carson has found that even those who feel desperate can have trouble getting the help they need. In fact, evidence suggests that officers at Ft. Carson punish soldiers who need help, and even kick them out of the Army."

In contrast to KOAA's reporting, the Rocky Mountain News noted on February 14 that "Fort Carson began the [PTSD] training last month after some soldiers accused their unit leaders through the news media of refusing to let them obtain treatment for PTSD symptoms."

From the February 14 KOAA video report:

QUIRK: The horror and stress of war does not disappear when our men and women in uniform return home from the war zone. In the past week, in fact, relatives of Jessica Rich, who was legally drunk, driving the wrong way on the interstate in the Springs, killed in a head-on collision, say she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning from Iraq. How the U.S. military is dealing with PTSD is a major concern to soldiers and their families.

Well now, Fort Carson is teaching soldiers how to recognize the warning signs through a new mandatory class. News First military reporter Mark Hanrahan has the story.

[begin video clip]

HANRAHAN: As the war in Iraq continues --

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It's not easy going to war.

HANRAHAN: -- Fort Carson intensifies its training on PTSD. At this class, higher-ranking soldiers learn how to recognize the warning signs and the importance of treating it as a real injury.

COL. JIM JAWORSKI (Commander, 1st Mobilization Brigade): There should be no stigma to it; it's an injury. PTSD is an injury. We need to treat it and get the soldier back in the formation.

HANRAHAN: According to Fort Carson, as many as 20 percent of returning soldiers report symptoms. In the last two years, more than 15 hundred cases have been reported. Leadership says proper help is always available and says soldiers are not punished when asking for mental help.

JAWORSKI: If a soldier had a torn ACL, he would go see an orthopedic surgeon. If he has PTSD, we're going to direct him to the right help, psychiatric help.

HANRAHAN: Still, cases slip through the cracks, or symptoms may go unnoticed. That's part of this training -- teaching soldiers how to look out for one another. Because with repeat deployments, the Army's mental health leaders expect to stay busy.

COL. STEVE KNORR [Fort Carson Chief of Behavioral Health]: If the current frequency of deployments continues, we'll remain busy.

HANRAHAN: At Fort Carson, Mark Hanrahan, News First.

[end video clip]

QUIRK: Leaders at Fort Carson tell us that mental health professionals are available to any soldier seeking help, and that a 24-hour mental health hotline is now up and running.

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