Report: Pledges on Military Health Care Not Carried Out
The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have not fulfilled promises to address problems with health care for veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals because of staff shortages and uncertainty about the most effective measures to take to improve care for wounded troops, according to a preliminary report released on Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office, the Washington Post reports.
According to the report, Army "warrior transition units" -- units assembled at 32 military hospitals nationwide to help wounded troops that include teams of physicians, case managers and squad leaders -- lack adequate nurses and social workers, and more than half of the units had staff vacancy rates of more than 50% by mid-September.
The report also found proposals to address problems with the military disability evaluation system and to provide "recovery coordinators" remain behind schedule (Vogel, Washington Post, 9/27).
The report said, "Delayed decisions, confusing policies and the perception that DOD and VA disability ratings result in inequitable outcomes have eroded the credibility of the system. ... It is imperative that DOD and VA take prompt steps to address fundamental system weaknesses."
According to the report, "Many challenges remain, and critical questions remain unanswered," adding, "Success will ultimately depend on sustained attention, systematic oversight by DOD and VA, and sufficient resources."
In addition, the report found that 46% of troops who return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and qualify for personalized medical care do not receive such treatment because of staff shortages. DOD and VA also have not developed a comprehensive system for medical records for veterans, the report found (Yen, AP/Lincoln Journal Star, 9/26).
A summary of the report is available online.
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs discussed the report on Wednesday during a hearing.
Committee ranking member Rep. Thomas Davis (R-Va.) said, "After so many promises but so little progress, we need to see more concrete results." He added that his staff hears "appalling stories" weekly from troops "trapped in a system they don't understand and that doesn't understand them" (Washington Post, 9/27).
Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, "I worry that after five years of war, our military health care system is overstretched, with even bigger problems coming down the line as soldiers are forced to serve more and longer deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan" (Yoest, CQ Today, 9/26).
WBUR's "Here & Now" on Wednesday included a discussion with Mark Benjamin, a Salon.com reporter, about the report (Young, "Here & Now," WBUR, 9/26). Audio of the segment is available online.