Personality tests for traumatized troops called unnecessary

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 | 2:29 PM ET

Medical staff at Canadian Forces trauma centres are speaking out about controversial new personality tests for soldiers looking for help for stress-related injuries, CBC News has learned.

Under the directive, every Canadian Forces member who seeks treatment for a stress disorder will have to undergo a personality test.

While such tests can be used to screen for psychological disorders, some medical professionals are convinced the military is using them to try to screen out malingerers  a psychiatric term for people who fake their symptoms to get out of working.

Maj. Rakesh Jetly, a psychiatrist in charge of the Canadian Forces trauma centre in Halifax, said the order has divided medical professionals.

"The one camp believes what we're doing is clinical work, just like everybody else in this hospital," said Jetly.

"Another camp is more concerned ... with a forensic or an independent medical exam, insurance-company approach to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. I'm not afraid to say I'm part of the first camp."

Military defends tests

Col. Randy Boddam, the director of mental health services for the Canadian Forces, says the tests are not being used to screen out liars.

"From my perspective, malingering is really not an issue," he said. "It's not something that we really pay attention to because our goal is to provide health care."

The tests allow us to understand what the military is doing right and what it needs to do better, he said.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who also works at the military trauma centre in Halifax, says he and his colleagues have no choice.

"So we're going to try to live with this," he said. "But at the same time, there's no way we're going to sit around and say we agree with it."

Claims at all-time high

The order comes as disability pensions for military members with stress-related injuries has reached an all-time high. There are more than 8,000 claims, a total that's five times higher than it was in 2001, said CBC News.

Joe Sharpe, a retired general who advises the military ombudsman on post-traumatic stress disorder, says soldiers will fear for their jobs if the results remain on their medical file.

"The level of stigma increases and as the level of stigma increases, the number of people coming forward to get help in time to get help decreases," he said.

There is already a support network of about 2,000 soldiers looking for help for psychological injuries. The 30 groups that make up the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program meet in secret locations across the country.

Members said they can't risk being seen together in public because the stigma within the military against psychological injuries is still too great.