Military Hospital Scandal Grows




 
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March 2nd, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Military Hospital Scandal Grows


Kansas City Star
March 2, 2007
Pg. 1

Missouri freshman senator joins with Barack Obama on proposal designed to improve conditions.
By David Goldstein, The Star's Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON -- The Army Thursday relieved the commanding two-star general at Walter Reed Army Medical Center because of a growing scandal over the treatment of severely wounded soldiers.
The Army said it had “lost trust and confidence” in the leadership of Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman to overcome problems involving living conditions for some soldiers and the soldiers’ bureaucratic battles with the military medical system.
The same day, Senate Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Barack Obama of Illinois introduced legislation to improve conditions at Walter Reed and other military hospitals.
McCaskill called for the resignation of Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, currently commander of the U.S. Medical Command, who will fill in for Weightman. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Kiley, who used to command Walter Reed, had been told of the problems in 2003.
Speaking on the Senate floor, McCaskill said the “irony” of Weightman’s ouster was that he “stepped up. He’s been there only a year. He said, ‘I will take responsibility’ … while General Kiley is quoted repeatedly as if there is not a problem.
“All the legislation we passed and all the paint we can put on the walls are not going to solve this problem if we don’t begin to speak out for accountability within the leadership of the military.”
Walter Reed is one of the nation’s premier military hospitals. The Post last month revealed that outpatient soldiers who had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were living in squalor in a run-down hotel acquired by the hospital.
The number of wounded men and women — many who must stay for months — has overwhelmed the case managers. The amount of paperwork is huge, and relatives who move to the facility 5 miles from the White House are frustrated in their attempts to help the rehabilitation.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called the situation “unacceptable” and created an independent panel to investigate.
Weightman, a graduate of West Point and the University of Vermont medical school, was a leading surgeon in both Gulf wars. He acknowledged problems, but said they were magnified because Reed was in Washington.
“We’re a fish bowl,” he said.
With Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey’s decision to fire him, Weightman’s 34-year Army career is effectively over.
McCaskill: ‘I felt sick’
“This is about a system that is not trying to make it easy for the wounded to get what they deserve,” McCaskill said during a news conference Thursday with Obama after introducing their bill.
She didn’t get a single question.
“He uses most of the oxygen,” she said, laughing about Obama’s status. “But one of the reasons I’m here is that he agreed to do it. I’m the last to complain about all the clicks being for him. The guy moves his hand and 1,000 shutters go off.”
How did McCaskill, still waiting to move into a permanent office on the Hill, seize the reins on such a highly charged issue with such a high-megawatt candidate for the White House?
Their partnership started Presidents Day weekend.
Early word that an issue was brewing led Obama’s staff initially to assume it involved the Department of Veterans Affairs. Obama serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, so the issue seemed squarely in his wheelhouse.
It was actually more in McCaskill’s. She serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and it’s the Army that runs Walter Reed, which treats active-duty soldiers.
Upon reading the Sunday newspaper reports, “I felt sick,” McCaskill said.
“Somewhere along the line, someone saw this and said to themselves, ‘We’re not supposed to complain.’ Any fresh set of eyes looking at rotting ceilings and peeling mold, and realizing our battle-weary men and women are being forced into those circumstances would say, ‘Whoa. This is wrong.’ Somebody ought to have pounded the table somewhere.”
She directed her staff to collect information about the problems and how she could help fix them.
In the Senate hierarchy, McCaskill knows her place — fourth from the bottom in seniority. She figured more senior colleagues would quickly wade into the controversy. The outrage level was blinking red, after all. Still, there was no harm in being prepared.
A common objective
McCaskill and Obama aides spoke that Sunday and realized both of their bosses had the same idea. E-mails and phone calls ensued over the next 24 hours.
“Next thing I know,” McCaskill said, “I got a call (reporting that) ‘Obama’s office will drop a bill the first of the week. Do you want to work with him?’ I’m beginning to learn this culture of the staff and how active and how on top of it they are.”
About 8 p.m. Monday, the two staffs posted a heads-up to other Senate Democratic offices that McCaskill and Obama planned to sponsor a bill to fix the problems at Walter Reed.
McCaskill was at a disadvantage. Obama had three aides who work on veterans’ issues and knew the problems that wounded soldiers face. She had just one legislative assistant to handle her entire portfolio of issues involving the military, homeland security, commerce and Indian affairs.
She has since added more. By chance, it was the first week on the job for her new military expert, a former infantry captain who was in the Iraq invasion. He toured Walter Reed with other Senate aides.
Earlier this week, McCaskill and her top aides gathered in her small, temporary office to prep her for her own tour Wednesday. A key question to the hospital brass would be: In light of the problems, where is the accountability going to be in the senior chain of command?
McCaskill was already cynical: “It’s going to be like the prison,” she told them, referring to the scandal over Abu Ghraib, a U.S. military prison in Baghdad. “The guys at the bottom will be held accountable and the guys at the top will not.”
Stepping up
After her tour, she said most of the top officials she met recognized how steep a climb they face to restore trust. But some “seemed very closed-minded and defensive,” she said. “One bragged this process has to be dispassionate, which seems to me to be oxymoronic.”
Her bill with Obama has begun to draw bipartisan support, including the backing of Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican. Hearings on the problems will start next week.
“Introducing legislation is not anything exceptional,” said Ross K. Baker, an expert on the Senate at Rutgers University. “What is exceptional is if it eventually improves the conditions at Walter Reed. She would be in a charmed circle. Very few freshmen are able to author a major piece of legislation.”
Problems at Walter Reed
The problems at Walter Reed pertain not to the quality of medical treatment for wounded soldiers but rather to the care for those who are well enough to be outpatients:
•Seriously wounded soldiers outnumber hospital staff 17 to 1. As a result, recovering soldiers, some with psychological issues, are asked to oversee other patients.
•Case managers for the wounded are overwhelmed and sometimes untrained.
•Building 18, a decrepit former hotel housing 80 recovering soldiers, had mold on the walls, secondhand furniture, soiled carpets, rodents and cockroaches.
•Bureaucratic delays stem from Army computer systems that do not interact, leaving the typical soldier to file 22 different documents with eight Army commands.
•Disoriented patients and their relatives get little help dealing with the 113-acre campus or the confusing paperwork.
March 3rd, 2007  
Kirruth
 
 
Of course, the dismissals have taken place at a higher level now.

To me, the way our countries look after wounded and dead veterans is a mark of our civilisation. They are not tools to be discarded casually when they stop working. They are husbands, fathers, wives, daughters, who have earned the right to be treated with respect and humanity.

It's dreadful to read the above (and the similar reports we have had in the UK, including one man treated in a civilian hospital who was taunted by his fellow patients).
March 3rd, 2007  
bulldogg
 
 
As bad as they are making this out to be I have personally seen worse in the VA hospitals. They are notorious for the standard of care, caliber of personnel and overall ambiance... the root though lies with the slimy bastards in Washington who vote pay raises for themselves while neglecting the budget of the VA.
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March 4th, 2007  
Warwick
 
I hope it is resolved quickly and properly and not just a rush job.
March 4th, 2007  
bulldogg
 
 
The problem is deep rooted and systemic, it wont go away they'll just dress it up and until the media are distracted by the next time Brittney shaves one of her ends.
 


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