Post: MOLD-WALTER REED INVESTIGATION
Posted by s on 2/21/07
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
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
"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
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
By DANA PRIEST and ANNE HULL
The Washington Post
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