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    Posted by s on 2/21/07

    Washington, D.C.

    Bush calls for investigation at Walter Reed Army hospital
    under fire for poor conditions

    By Dana Priest and Anne Hull The Washington Post February
    21. 2007 8:00AM

    T he White House and congressional leaders called yesterday
    for swift investigation and repair of the problems plaguing
    outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as
    veterans groups and members of Congress in both parties
    expressed outrage over substandard housing and the slow,
    dysfunctional bureaucracy there.

    Top Army officials yesterday visited Building 18, the
    decrepit former hotel housing more than 80 recovering
    soldiers, outside the gates of the medical center. Army
    Secretary Francis Harvey and Vice Chief of Staff Richard
    Cody toured the building and spoke to soldiers as workers
    in protective masks stripped mold from the walls and tore
    up soiled carpets.

    At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said he spoke with
    the president yesterday about Walter Reed and the president
    told him: "Find out what the problem is and fix it."

    He said Bush "first learned of the troubling allegations
    regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in The
    Washington Post. He is deeply concerned and wants any
    problems identified and fixed." (The stories were published
    Monday and yesterday in the Monitor.)

    Snow said he did not know why the president, who has
    visited the facility many times in the past five years, had
    not heard about these problems before. ---ADVERTISEMENT---

    Walter Reed's commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, said
    in an interview that the Army leadership had assured him
    all the staff increases he had requested would be met.
    "This is not an issue," he said. "This is their No. 1

    He said the Army has agreed to fund what he called a "surge
    plan" that has been designed for the likelihood that the
    21,500-person troop increase now under way in Iraq will
    result in more casualties.

    Weightman said that case managers have been ordered to call
    each of the 700 outpatients to ask about problems they may
    be encountering. He has also put a half-dozen senior
    enlisted officers from the hospital in charge of the
    outpatients' companies normally in the hands of lower level
    platoon sergeants. Also, a medic will now be stationed 24
    hours a day at the Mologne House, the largest residence on
    the 113-acre post, to help soldiers with medical or
    psychological issues.

    Harvey said he was surprised and disappointed at the
    conditions and the frustrating bureaucratic delays. "In the
    warrior ethos, the last line says you should never leave a
    fallen comrade, and from that facility point of view we
    didn't live up to it . . . and it looks to me we may have
    not lived up to it from a process side," he said, adding
    that conditions at the building are "inexcusable."

    "It's a failure . . . that should have never happened, and
    we are quickly going to rectify that situation," he said.

    The Post series documented tattered conditions at Building
    18, including mold, rot, mice and cockroaches, but also a
    larger bureaucratic indifference that has impeded some
    soldiers' ability to recover from their wounds.

    At Building 18 yesterday, platoon sergeants with clipboards
    went room-to-room inspecting for mold, leaks and other
    problems. A broken elevator was repaired and snow and ice
    was cleared from the sidewalks.

    Walter Reed's fixes are unlikely to immediately quiet the
    drumbeat of criticism that erupted among members of
    Congress who received a flood of calls from the public and
    veterans groups asking how the problems could have been
    unknown to officials, some of whom visit Walter Reed on a
    regular basis.

    "We need to bring the Army people in and say, 'What the
    hell is going on?' " said Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the
    House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked the House Armed Services
    Committee to conduct an investigation of outpatient care at
    Walter Reed.

    Several senators, including Democratic presidential
    candidate Barak Obama of Illinois and former presidential
    candidate John Kerry, announced they are co-sponsoring
    legislation to simplify the paperwork process for
    recovering soldiers and increase case managers and
    psychological counselors. The bill would also require the
    Army to report more regularly to the Congress and the
    Inspector General about conditions injured soldiers.

    ------ End of article


    The Washington Post

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