Journalism in the Public Interest

Senator Wants Answers on Program to Test Soldiers for Brain Injuries

Sen. Claire McCaskill has requested a briefing from the military on its troubled neurological testing program.


Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the Senate Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, holds a hearing on on Capitol Hill. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has demanded answers from the military about its neurological testing program, sending a letter citing findings from an investigation by ProPublica and NPR to Army Secretary John McHugh.

At issue is a computerized cognitive test called the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics, or ANAM. Under an order from Congress to implement testing, the military began administering the ANAM to help detect brain injuries among troops deployed to war zones. But our investigation found that the military is using the test in a way that makes results unreliable and that the process to select it was marred by bias.

"The Army has spent millions through contracts to administer the ANAM test to members of the Armed Services" despite the fact that the "ANAM has not been proven to be effective at detecting cases of mild to medium TBI," McCaskill wrote in her letter, sent Wednesday.

McCaskill, who chairs a subcommittee on government contracting oversight, also said that the Defense Department has paid $32 million to several contractors responsible for administering, marketing and improving the ANAM test. (Our reporting, based on documents and interviews, showed that contractors have been paid more than $42 million.)

The senator has asked that McHugh meet with her staff to respond to questions about the testing program before Jan. 20, 2012.

A spokesman for the Army didn't immediately respond to an email asking for comment on the letter.

McCaskill's request comes after an amendment to help fix the testing program was pulled from the House version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act earlier this week. The amendment's author, Rep. Bill Pascrell, D. N.J., expressed discontent with the program's implementation and with Congress' efforts to mend it on the House floor yesterday.

"We are doing a disservice to the brave men and women in our armed forces by not addressing this problem in this bill," Pascrell said.

Correction (12/15): We erroneously said a letter sent by Sen. McCaskill said contractors have been paid $42 million. It said they have been paid $32 million.

Good for her, glad someone is on this. Where are all the other players? It’s not just her. US gov’t is going to have to fight their own war. We’re not going to do it anymore. Those old GOP’s and Dem’s are going to have to go first. We’ll watch and Occupy America, INC.

Janet, who is this “We” you are referring to?  Are you in the military and fighting anything?  Saying “We’re not going to do it anymore” infers that you have any part in the military…

I, though, am in the Army and have deployed.  The ANAM was a pretty weak tool in detecting anything and was completely based on user input.  If someone wanted to skew the results they could.  What the military should put its time and money into is only screening people who have had a threat of a brain injury, not everyone.  Reality is that less than 10% of deployed individuals see combat and would even remotely be exposed to something that would result in a brain injury.

Go get ‘em Claire.  This has been a disaster from the start. People need to held accountable, fired or jailed.

Our young men and women deserved better than a bunch of low-life war profiteers selling snake oil.


Dec. 17, 2011, 2:06 p.m.


unless it means we have to sacrifice something.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Brain Wars

Brain Wars: How the Military Is Failing Its Wounded

The military has failed to diagnose brain injuries in thousands of soldiers returning from overseas.

The Story So Far

Traumatic brain injury is considered the “signature wound” of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Official military statistics show that more than 115,000 soldiers have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the wars began. Shock waves from roadside bombs can ripple through soldiers’ brains, causing damage that sometimes leaves no visible scars but may cause lasting mental and physical harm.

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