Army Surgeon General Steps Down; Inspections Ordered
Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley on Sunday resigned from his position as the Army's surgeon general "after weeks of intense public criticism stemming from revelations about poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center," the Washington Post reports. Kiley served as commander of Walter Reed from 2002 through 2004 (White, Washington Post, 3/13).
The Post recently published a two-part series that examined conditions at Walter Reed. One article profiled the state of Building 18, which has mold, cockroaches and stained carpets, among other issues. The series also examined the process by which injured soldiers seek disability compensation.
Several Army officials -- including Walter Reed commander Maj. Gen. George Weightman and Army Secretary Francis Harvey -- were fired after the Post series was published (California Healthline, 3/9).
The Los Angeles Times reports that Kiley's departure "was not unexpected, particularly after congressional criticism that he had allowed deficiencies in the center's outpatient system to fester despite complaints from patients and their families that they were receiving shoddy care."
According to the Army, Kiley on Sunday submitted his request to resign to Pete Geren, the acting Army secretary who is filling in for Harvey.
Pentagon officials said that Geren requested Kiley's retirement.
Kiley in a statement said he is retiring "because I think it is in the best interest of the Army" (Spiegel/Neuman, Los Angeles Times, 3/13).
The Army's deputy surgeon general, Maj. Gen. Gale Pollack, will act as temporary surgeon general. Geren said a panel in April will meet to recommend Kiley's permanent successor (Shanker/Stout, New York Times, 3/13).
Geren in a statement said, "We must move quickly to fill this position -- this leader will have a key role ... in meeting the needs of our wounded warriors" (Jelinek, AP/USA Today, 3/13).
Two defense officials on Monday said that ongoing probes could lead to future firings, according to the Post (White, Washington Post, 3/13).
An influx of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a failure in more than 90% of cases to review disability claims on time, according to a report released Monday by the Army Inspector General, the Washington Post reports. The report was ordered by former Army Secretary Harvey in April 2006 and was completed on March 6.
It included interviews with 650 soldiers, civilians and leaders at 32 Army posts in the U.S. and overseas (Scott Tyson, Washington Post, 3/13).
The report found that the Army failed to meet deadlines for granting medical retirements for wounded troops in 94% of cases during 2005 and 2006 (Zoroya, USA Today, 3/13).
The report also found that the number of disability claims increased from 9,000 in 2001 to more than 15,000 in 2005. In 43% of cases, the Army did not process disability claims within its 30-day goal, the report found. In addition, 70% of medical hold units did not have an adequate number of staff, affecting their ability to "provide soldiers the level of attention and support they required to complete their medical care," the report found.
The report also cited a lack of behavioral-health specialists to help soldiers with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or suicidal behavior (Scott Tyson, Washington Post, 3/13). Other problems cited included poorly trained case workers, outdated community systems, lost paperwork and a failure to instruct doctors, commanders and case workers about the retirement process (Zoroya, USA Today, 3/13).
Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson has ordered the agency's 1,400 clinics and hospitals to report on the status of their facilities by next week, the Kansas City Star reports (Goldstein, Kansas City Star, 3/13). Nicholson in an internal memorandum sent to VA's medical center directors said "recent events" prompted him to evaluate the facilities' conditions and make improvements where necessary.
Walter Reed is a military hospital run by the Defense Department, not the VA. In VA hospitals and clinics, 5.8 million veterans receive care.
Nicholson wrote, "I am directing you hereby to conduct and supervise a full and immediate review of your facility's environments of care." He added, "As medical center and network directors, you all are responsible. Negative responses are required."
Nicholson said he wanted a full report by March 14 (Yen, AP/Los Angeles Times, 3/13).
Several broadcast programs reported on Kiley's retirement. Summaries appear below.
- CBS' "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Kiley, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and an injured soldier receiving treatment at Walter Reed (Martin, "Evening News," CBS, 3/12). Video of the segment is available online.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Kiley and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (Miklaszewski, "Nightly News," NBC, 3/12). Video of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Kiley, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Geren (Raz, "All Things Considered," NPR, 3/13). Audio and a partial transcript of the segment are available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": "Morning Edition" host Steve Inskeep reported on Kiley's retirement (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/13). Audio of the segment is available online.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes a discussion with Josh White, a reporter for the Washington Post (Suarez, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 3/12). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.