Mikulski Demands Investigation of Deplorable Conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski Demands Investigation of Deplorable Conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center


Mikulski, Murray Urge Defense Secretary to Launch Thorough Inspector General Investigation of Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital

Washington - U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging him to launch an Inspector General's investigation of the deplorable living conditions facing returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans at the Army's flagship military hospital, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. This news comes days after the Washington Post ran two stories, by Dana Priest and Anne Hull, about deplorable conditions that exist at the facility.

"If conditions at Walter Reed, the crown jewel of military health care facilities, have degraded to the point where mouse traps are handed out to patients, how can we feel confident that our troops and veterans truly have the care and transition assistance they have been promised at any facility across the country?" the Senators wrote.

The Senators also asked for an investigation into conditions at the Navy's top hospital, Bethesda Naval Hospital. The letter follows an investigation by The Washington Post that revealed substandard living conditions, bureaucratic delays and inadequate benefits for seriously injured service members. Mikulski and Murray are both members of the Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the two facilities.

Specifically, the Senators asked for:

* an inspection of each outpatient facility to assess their quality and safety.

* a report on the number of caseworkers and an assessment of their training and workload.

* a review of the paperwork requirements for recovering soldiers.

* a report on the accessibility and quality of psychological counseling for Soldiers and their families.

* a remediation plan, including a timeline and description of the steps the Department of Defense will take to improve outpatient care, and improve and simplify benefits for wounded military personnel.

RELATED INFORMATION:

Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/17/AR2007021701172.html
Washington Post, Sunday, February 18, 2007
Dana Priest and Anne Hull

The Hotel Aftermath; Inside Mologne House, the Survivors of War Wrestle With Military Bureaucracy and Personal Demons
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/18/AR2007021801335.html
Washington Post, Monday, February 19, 2007
Anne Hull and Dana Priest


The text of their letter follows:

February 20, 2007
Secretary Robert Gates
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Gates:

We have seen first hand the excellent medical care that our troops receive at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In many cases Walter Reed's professional care and military expertise means the difference between life and death for our wounded combat heroes.

This is why we were so shocked and outraged to read the Washington Post's weekend series on the dire conditions many of our military wounded face as they transition out of acute care and into outpatient care at Walter Reed. There is no more vivid image of the lack of planning by the Bush Administration for a prolonged military operation in Iraq than the neglect of our men and women in uniform when they come home.

We are writing today to demand an end to that neglect.

According to the Post series, members of our military suffering from devastating physical and mental wounds are left to navigate a system of dilapidated living quarters, bureaucratic nightmares, language barriers, inadequate and confusing benefits and neglect on virtually every level.

Over 700 soldiers are living as outpatients either on post or in apartments and hotels near by. The Washington Post showed shocking pictures of Building 18 - which is infested with rodents, has mold, broken doors and a broken elevator.

While we understand from subsequent stories that work has begun on Building 18, these revelations raise a larger and even more concerning issue:

If conditions at Walter Reed, the crown jewel of military health care facilities, have degraded to the point where mouse traps are handed out to patients, how can we feel confident that our troops and veterans truly have the care and transition assistance they have been promised at any facility across the country?

We are well aware of plans by the Pentagon to close Walter Reed by 2011, but that is no excuse for atrocious conditions in 2007. As long as we have troops coming home, we demand that they be treated with the dignity and respect they have earned from a grateful nation.

That is why we are calling for an immediate Inspector General investigation of conditions for outpatients at our premier military hospitals - Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital. This investigation must include:

-an inspection of each outpatient facility to assess the quality and safety of each facility

-a report on the number of caseworkers and an assessment of their training and workload

-a review of the paperwork requirements for recovering soldiers

-a report of on the accessibility and quality of psychological counseling for soldiers and their families

-a remediation plan, including a timeline and description of the steps the Department of Defense will take to improve outpatient care and improve and simplify benefits for wounded military personnel

We insist that you initiate the Inspector General review immediately, to insure that recovering troops and their families are treated with the care and respect they deserve. With wounded heroes suffering every day under these unacceptable conditions, we respectfully ask that this review be given the highest priority and be completed in the shortest amount of time possible. Our wounded veterans deserve no less.

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

Patty Murray
United States Senator

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