White House Orders Probe of Military Hospitals
The White House on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the treatment provided at U.S. military hospitals to veterans who return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Reuters/Los Angeles Times reports.
According to Reuters/Times, congressional Democrats also "demanded a thorough investigation and promised legislation" after the Washington Post last weekend featured a series that highlighted "deteriorating conditions for hundreds of outpatients" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
White House spokesperson Tony Snow said, "I can tell you that we believe that they deserve better. Of course, there's outrage that men and women who have been fighting have not received the outpatient care." Snow added, "We need to make sure that whatever problems there are get fixed."
The Pentagon said that an independent committee will investigate conditions at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Assistant Secretary of Defense William Winkenwerder said, "We are committed to improving the clinical and administrative processes, including improving temporary living conditions for our service members and their families."
The Pentagon in a statement said that the Army and Navy have begun independent investigations of the conditions at the two medical centers (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 2/21).
In the Senate, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation that seeks to improve the conditions at Walter Reed.
In addition, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that requested information on the conditions at Walter Reed and asked him to explain the cause of the problems cited in the Post series (Tiron, The Hill, 2/21).
The Post last weekend published a two-part series, titled "The Other Walter Reed," that examined the conditions at the medical center. Summaries of the articles from the series, as well as two related articles, appear below.
- "Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility": The article, published on Sunday, examined Building 18, one of five outpatient facilities at Walter Reed, which has indications of "neglect ... everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses." According to the article, patients outnumber staff at Walter Reed by a 17-to-1 ratio, and almost 700 patients -- the "majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty." Walter Reed has become "a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged patients," according to the article (Priest/Hull, Washington Post, 2/18).
- "The Hotel Aftermath": The article, published on Monday, examined the Mologne House, a second outpatient facility at Walter Reed, where the "luckiest" patients stay. According to the article, Walter Reed opened the facility "10 years ago as a short-term lodging facility for military personnel, retirees and their family members." Today, however, "the silver walkers of retired generals convalescing from hip surgery have been replaced by prosthetics propped against Xbox games and Jessica Simpson posters smiling down on brain-rattled grunts," according to the article (Priest/Hull, Washington Post, 2/19).
- "Army Fixing Patients' Housing": The article, published on Tuesday, examined how Walter Reed began repairs on Building 18, which "has been plagued with mold, leaky plumbing and a broken elevator." According to the article, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, commander of Building 18, said that Army staff inspected the 54 rooms of the facility and found repair orders for half of the rooms remain incomplete. In addition, he said that mold removal had begun on several rooms and that repairs had begun on holes in ceilings, stained carpets and leaking faucets (Priest/Hull, Washington Post, 2/20).
- "Hospital Investigates Former Aid Chief": The article, published on Tuesday, examined a criminal investigation into the activities of Michael Wagner, former director of the Army Medical Family Assistance Center. According to the article, at the same time Wagner "was being paid to provide ... vital service to patients, outpatients and their relations," he also was "seeking funders and soliciting donations for his own new charity, based in Texas" (Priest/Hull, Washington Post, 2/20).
Three broadcast programs reported on the Post series. Summaries appear below.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes a discussion with Dana Priest and Anne Hull, the Post reporters who wrote articles for the series (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/19). Audio of the segment is available online.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes a discussion with Priest (Woodruff, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 2/19). Audio, video and a transcript of the segment are available online.
- WAMU's "The Diane Rehm Show": The first hour of the program on Wednesday is scheduled to include a discussion with Priest and Hull ("The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 2/21). Audio of the segment will be available online after the broadcast.