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Evaluation Raised Concerns About Maj. Hasan In '07

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Evaluation Raised Concerns About Maj. Hasan In '07

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Evaluation Raised Concerns About Maj. Hasan In '07

Evaluation Raised Concerns About Maj. Hasan In '07

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Documents obtained by NPR show that psychiatrists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center put their concerns about the accused Fort Hood shooter in writing. Two years ago, a top official there wrote an evaluation that harshly criticized Maj. Nidal Hasan's incompetence and unprofessional behavior.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's learn more about the suspect now. We have been reporting on concerns about Colonel Nidal Hasan's behavior as an Army psychiatrist. Those concerns were raised long before his alleged shooting rampage at Fort Hood. Now we have confirmation that at least one of his superiors put those concerns in writing.

NPR's obtained an Army memo, a written evaluation of Hasan's work. He was a captain at the time, yet to be promoted to major. The memo portrays him as an incompetent psychiatrist and an unprofessional officer who often neglected his duties and his patients. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reports.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: The memo is signed by Major Scott Moran. He's the psychiatrist who runs the residency program at Walter Reed. It's written in the dry, careful language of bureaucracies, but this memo is devastating to Nidal Hasan. The memo states, quote, �The faculty has serious concerns about Captain Hasan's professionalism and work ethic. He demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism,� unquote.

Spokesmen at the Pentagon and Fort Hood refuse to comment - so did Hasan's former boss, Scott Moran. So, I showed the document to two respected psychiatrists and they said the memo basically warns that Nidal Hasan could hurt his patients.

Dr. JUDITH BRODER (The Soldiers Project): I would never, ever hire a physician with this kind of a record.

ZWERDLING: Judith Broder runs the Soldiers Project. It's a network of 300 therapists who treat troops for free in southern California. Broder says the memo didn't warn that Hasan might shoot people; it showed that he could damage vulnerable patients by being a bad psychiatrist. For instance, the memo shows that Hasan proselytized to patients. He mishandled a homicidal patient. He allowed her to escape from the emergency room. The memo shows that when Hasan was supposed to be on-call for emergencies, he didn't even answer the phone.

Broder says you can't have a doctor who behaves like that.

Dr. BRODER: This kind of behavior could, in fact, set off a stress reaction. It could be a trigger to a post traumatic stress reaction.

ZWERDLING: In the patient, in the young�

Dr. BRODER: Yeah, yeah.

ZWERDLING: �soldier or Marine.

Dr. BRODER: Yeah, exactly.

Dr. STEVEN SHARFSTEIN (Sheppard Pratt Psychiatric Medical Center): Even if we were desperate for a psychiatrist, we would not even get him to the point where we would invite him for an interview.

ZWERDLING: Dr. Steven Sharfstein runs the Sheppard Pratt Psychiatric Medical Center - it's near Baltimore, Maryland. He says he's been supervising and hiring psychiatrists for 25 years now, and he's seen maybe six other evaluations that were as bad as Nidal Hasan's. Sharfstein announced that the memo does say a couple of positive things about Hasan - at least relatively positive.

The memo states that Hasan is able to self correct with supervision. And Hasan's supervisor writes: I am not able to say he is not competent to graduate. But Sharfstein says when a psychiatrist works with a troubled patient they're in that private room alone. Nobody at the hospital has time to listen in and supervise.

Dr. SHARFSTEIN: Somebody with this pattern of problems - his unreliability and clearly, difficulty with basic competence - would disqualify him.

ZWERDLING: The head of the Solders Project says Moran's memo shows that Walter Reed didn't just fail patients who were treated by Nidal Hasan, Judith Broder says Walter Reed failed Hasan himself.

Dr. BRODER: He was shouting out that he needed help, some kind of psychiatric help, and he should have been given it and not just allowed to go on when he was in such bad shape.

ZWERDLING: A key Senate committee starts hearings today. They're asking who knew what; when and what, if anything, did they do about it?

Daniel Zwerdling, NPR News.

INSKEEP: And we'll bring you more on this story as we learn it on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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Hasan's Supervisor Warned Army In 2007

Hasan's Supervisor Warned Army In 2007

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In May of 2007 Dr. Scott Moran, the chief of psychiatric residents at Walter Reed, outlined his concerns about Hasan in a memo. Alyson Hurt hide caption

toggle caption Alyson Hurt

Read The Memo

Read a transcript of the May 2007 memo obtained by NPR in which Dr. Scott Moran, the chief of psychiatric residents at Walter Reed, outlines his concerns about Hasan:

Two years ago, a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was so concerned about what he saw as Nidal Hasan's incompetence and reckless behavior that he put those concerns in writing. NPR has obtained a copy of the memo, the first evaluation that has surfaced from Hasan's file.

Officials at Walter Reed sent that memo to Fort Hood this year when Hasan was transferred there.

Nevertheless, commanders still assigned Hasan — accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 — to work with some of the Army's most troubled and vulnerable soldiers.

The Damning Memo

On May 17, 2007, Hasan's supervisor at Walter Reed sent the memo to the Walter Reed credentials committee. It reads, "Memorandum for: Credentials Committee. Subject: CPT Nidal Hasan." More than a page long, the document warns that: "The Faculty has serious concerns about CPT Hasan's professionalism and work ethic. ... He demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism." It is signed by the chief of psychiatric residents at Walter Reed, Maj. Scott Moran.

When shown the memo, two leading psychiatrists said it was so damning, it might have sunk Hasan's career if he had applied for a job outside the Army.

"Even if we were desperate for a psychiatrist, we would not even get him to the point where we would invite him for an interview," says Dr. Steven Sharfstein, who runs Sheppard Pratt's psychiatric medical center, based just outside Baltimore.

Sharfstein says it's a little hard to read the evaluation now and pretend that he doesn't know that Hasan is accused of shooting dozens of people. But he says if he had seen a memo like this about an applicant, Sharfstein would have avoided him like the plague.

The memo ticks off numerous problems over the course of Hasan's training, including proselytizing to his patients. It says he mistreated a homicidal patient and allowed her to escape from the emergency room, and that he blew off an important exam.

According to the memo, Hasan hardly did any work: He saw only 30 patients in 38 weeks. Sources at Walter Reed say most psychiatrists see at least 10 times that many patients. When Hasan was supposed to be on call for emergencies, he didn't even answer the phone.

An undated handout photo of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month. U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences/Getty Images

An undated handout photo of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month.

U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences/Getty Images

Warning Signs

Sharfstein says the memo doesn't suggest that Hasan would end up shooting people, but it warns that Hasan was "somebody who could potentially put patients in danger."

"There are all kinds of warning signs, flashing red lights, that, in terms of just this paragraph, you'd say, 'Oh, no, this is not somebody that we would take a chance on.' "

Sharfstein says that in the 25 years he has been supervising and hiring psychiatrists, he has seen only a half-dozen evaluations this bad.

The memo does have a couple of qualifications that say something positive about Hasan. It says, "He is able to self-correct with supervision." And Moran writes, "I am not able to say he is not competent to graduate."

Officials at Walter Reed told NPR that those statements were very carefully worded. What they convey is that when Hasan's supervisors read him the riot act — when they gave him intensive supervision — he would improve just enough so that they had to tell their commanders: "Hasan is capable of doing better."

But officials say nobody has the time to supervise a doctor that closely.

Alerting Fort Hood

"I would never, ever hire a physician with this kind of a record," says Judith Broder, who runs the Soldiers Project, an award-winning private therapy program for troops in Southern California.

Broder says that soldiers seeking therapy may be falling apart, filled with rage and a distrust of authority. What those soldiers need, she says, is a psychiatrist they can trust completely — not a therapist who fails to show up and abandons his patients.

"This kind of behavior could, in fact, set off a stress reaction" in a patient, she says. "It could be a trigger to a post-traumatic stress reaction."

Moran and Pentagon spokesmen declined NPR's requests for interviews for this story. Officials at Fort Hood would not comment, either.

But sources say that when the Army sent Hasan to Fort Hood earlier this year, Walter Reed sent the damning evaluation there, too. So commanders at Fort Hood would know exactly what they were getting.

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