16 Jul Army Drops All Legal Action Against SSG Pogany
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Army Drops All Legal Action Against SSG Pogany
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — July 16, 2004 – Anderson & Travis announced today that SSG Georg Andreas Pogany was advised by his commanding officer yesterday that as a result of his medical diagnosis and condition, he no longer has any UCMJ or Administrative action pending. Furthermore, he was advised that he is not under any kind of investigation.
“There are currently no disciplinary charges pending against Staff Sgt. Pogany,” Special Operations spokesman Blake Waltman told United Press International Thursday. Additionally, “The command reviewed all of the information, as well as Staff Sgt. Pogany’s medical condition, and decided the best course of action was to drop the charges,” said a spokeswoman for the Army Special Forces Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Richard Travis, attorney for SSG Pogany, states, “This has been an emotionally and financially draining nightmare for SSG Pogany. We’re glad it’s finally over. It’s too bad that the command didn’t consider the medical evidence we presented months earlier. The larger issue remains—the manner in which SSG Pogany was inappropriately treated in Iraq still has not been addressed. The command owes him an apology for preferring an unwarranted cowardice charge as opposed to allowing him to obtain treatment and remain in Iraq as a doctor recommended, as well as for his continued poor treatment here at Fort Carson.”
SSG Pogany was wrongfully charged with cowardice and willful dereliction of duty last year after seeking help for his reactions to seeing a dead Iraqi body. Medical findings released in June support SSG Pogany’s claim that he had a normal combat stress reaction to seeing a dead Iraqi body that was exacerbated by toxic effects of Lariam (mefloquine). On June 2, 2004, Dr. Michael E. Hoffer, Chairman of the DOD Spatial Orientation Center, diagnosed SSG Pogany with injury to his brain stem and vestibular abnormalities as a result of antimalarial drug toxicity likely caused by the drug Lariam (mefloquine).
Senator Dianne Feinstein has urged the Pentagon to implement a program for soldiers to report side effects of Lariam (mefloquine), as well as urged the CDC to review its recommendation for making Lariam (mefloquine) the “drug of choice” for chloroquine-resistant regions. Additionally, in June 2004, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs sent a letter to physicians caring for soldiers who may have taken Lariam (mefloquine). In their letter, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs outlined the serious side effects of Lariam to include paranoia, hallucinations,panic attacks, depression, confusion, and other neuropsychiatric symptoms. The letter also summarized over 60 reports and studies on the long-term effects of Lariam (mefloquine).
SSG Pogany is frustrated with the military’s handling of his case and its lack of public recognition that Lariam (mefloquine) can cause serious side effects, and in this case exacerbated what was a normal combat stress reaction. He states, “No soldier serving his or her country should face the same legal and medical ordeal that I endured. All Army commanders should accept responsibility for ensuring soldiers affected by Lariam (mefloquine) and/or combat stress have an opportunity to be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated without fear of reprisal for reporting side effects.” Furthermore, SSG Pogany says, “For nine months, I’ve had to endure an unnecessary legal, financial, and emotional nightmare. I believe the Army should apologize to my wife, my parents, and me for the emotional and financial turmoil they put us through, as well as provide a written retraction of the allegations of cowardice and willful dereliction of duty.” Echoing this sentiment, Travis believes that, as a result of this case, there still remains a chilling effect on soldiers’ ability to obtain mental health treatment.
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