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ARE MILITARY WHISTLE-BLOWERS BEING SENT TO MENTAL WARDS?

Former and current military personnel say military whistle-blowers have been psychologically tested and sent to mental wards as forms of intimidation or reprisal, a newspaper said.

The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that it investigated 27 psychiatric cases involving the military dating to 1969 and found most of the servicemen and servicewomen involved had spotless records until they complained of problems in the system. It didn't say how the cases were chosen.Chester Paul Beach Jr., a Defense Department spokesman, said "there are few cases, if any, in which a commander has referred a service member for a mental health evaluation" in retaliation for blowing the whistle.

The newspaper examined nine cases through interviews with the personnel and court documents.

Tom Pearson, who represented a former Air Force lawyer at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, said his client was sent to Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio in 1983 "under the misapprehension he was going to have his stomach looked at."

"And the next thing he knew, they kept him 34 days in a psychiatric ward," he said. A federal judge eventually ordered all rec-ords of the officer's hospitalization deleted, the newspaper reported.

In another case, Capt. Denise Kirkland, an Air Force surgeon who complained about shoddy practices at the Little Rock Air Force Base hospital, was told by her supervisor that she had suicidal tendencies and was ordered to have a psychiatric evaluation. She left the Air Force last fall after a court-martial panel cleared her of charges she refused to treat a critically ill woman.