Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Is this how the president "supports the troops?" Our veteran outpatients, our wounded soldiers are shoved off into rat-infested, mold-ridden tenements?!! And they are afraid to speak out? This is a moral imperative. If we can't help our wounded valiant soldiers, home from the battlefield — who have lost legs, arms and brain matter all for Bush's evil war, then how on earth can we call ourselves a civilized nation?
The good news is this: because of two brave journalists, the veterans are being moved immediately, and changes are happening fast.
Dana Priest On Walter Reed Army Medical Center: An ‘Unbelievable’ Story of ‘Neglect’ and ‘Indifference’
Dana Priest and Anne Hull of the Washington Post revealed over the weekend that Walter Reed hospital, once perceived as the “crown jewel of military medicine,” has become “something else entirely — a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients.” Priest and Hull snuck in and out of the Walter Reed facilities over the course of four months without the knowledge or permission of hospital officials. They said they wanted to bypass the hospital’s “very well-oiled public relations machine.” Some examples of what they saw:
– The “legions” of injured soldiers housed at the facility “take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army.”
– Building 18 “has been plagued with mold, leaky plumbing and a broken elevator.”
– “The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.”
Next year, the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system expects to treat 263,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, a number three times what the VA initially projected. "The number of veterans coming into the VA health care system has been rising by about five percent a year, as the number of people returning from Iraq with illnesses or injuries keeps rising." President Bush has promised that our nation would "keep its commitments to those who have risked their lives for our freedom." "We owe them all we can give them," Bush said after a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Not only for when they're in harm's way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service."
The Washington Post reported Saturday that staffers responsible for managing outpatients at Walter Reed have had caseloads of more than 125 patients each. Recovering soldiers face bureaucratic delays, overworked case managers and appalling living conditions, including black mold, cheap mattresses and cockroaches.
"This news is an absolute outrage. And it's shameful. It is absolutely inexcusable that our wounded troops are coming home to such an unprepared and overwhelmed health care system (and please note, Walter Reed is not even a VA facility). Responsibility for this tragedy goes straight to the top. We at IAVA are demanding swift action from the President, Department of Defense and Congress to correct these problems. It is disgraceful that our country has sent troops to war without ensuring adequate care for the wounded."