By U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Americans have listened to news reports about the deteriorating conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center with shock and horror. I share their deep concern, and I am determined that changes will be made to ensure that injured American soldiers receive the best treatment possible.
I recently spent a morning with soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who are currently receiving medical care from Walter Reed. I visited with them at Ft. George G. Meade, where they are being housed while they are shuttled to Walter Reed for medical treatment.
The soldiers I met with were ambulatory, but several of them have been at Ft. Meade almost a year undergoing treatment. They are living in Freedom Barracks, a state-of-the-art facility that was opened in 2002. I want to commend Ft. Meade Installation Commander Kenneth McCreedy and his staff for providing top-notch living quarters for these soldiers and for attending to the needs of these brave men and women.
Ft. Meade also is currently housing six families of injured soldiers who are receiving treatment at Walter Reed.
In talking with 13 of these soldiers, I was struck by their dedication and commitment to our nation. Most of them are members of the National Guard or Reserves and they never questioned their need to serve our nation.
In meeting with them, I wanted to hear about their experiences and hear what they think we should be doing to better address the medical needs of wounded soldiers. Many of them cited the lack of coordinated medical care and rehabilitation as a major problem. While many praised the doctors at Walter Reed and their overall medical treatment, most expressed frustration with inexperienced or unknowledgeable case managers.
Case managers are critical to the overall treatment plan for a patient. They set up medical and rehabilitation appointments and follow through to make sure treatment plans have been followed. While new case managers are currently being trained, it is clear that there are too few case managers for too many patients.
More than 25,000 Americans soldiers have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these soldiers have survived wounds that would have been fatal in past wars. Yet, in talking with the soldiers living at Ft. Meade, it is clear that this Administration has failed to anticipate the long-term needs of many with severe wounds.
We made a commitment to our soldiers that we would take care of them. We have not lived up to that promise. I assured the soldiers that I met with that I will work to ensure our nation lives up to its commitments to the men and women who have sacrificed so much. I consider that a sacred obligation that must be fulfilled.