Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Latest Veterans News from U.S. Senator Patty Murray

February 21, 2007

The Latest Veterans News from U.S. Senator Patty Murray
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Senators Demand Investigation of
Deplorable Conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) 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.

"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. Murray and Mikulski 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,

and 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.

The text of their letter follows:
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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,

and 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,

Patty Murray
United States Senator

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

MEANWHILE, THE BUSH, BIN-LADEN, AND SUN-MYUNG-MOON FAMILIES ARE DOING JUST SWELL, THANK YOU!

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As Jim Hightower explains it, is that “the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possess more net worth today than the bottom 90 percent of us combined. Worse, these privileged few and their political henchmen have structured a new economic ‘normal’ of long-term joblessness, low wages, no benefits or worker rights, miserly public services, and a steadily widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us.” We must restore sanity to this nation.