Saturday, March 03, 2007

The President speaks on Walter Reed and Veterans Issues

From my Meeker County outpost...

The President's Saturday radio address focused on our nations Veterans today, four years too late in my eyes.

These servicemen and women deserve the thanks of our country, and they deserve
the best care our Nation can provide. That is why I was deeply troubled by
recent reports of substandard conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Most of the people working at Walter Reed are dedicated professionals. These
fine doctors, nurses, and therapists care deeply about our wounded troops, and
they work day and night to help them. Yet some of our troops at Walter Reed have
experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they
deserve. This is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to our country, and it's
not going to continue.

Excuse me Mister President, this has been news for quite some time now. Some say the Walter Reed scandal pushed this over the proverbial edge. Veterans have been falling off this edge for decades. Is this a Democrat versus Republican issue? Historically, no. Veterans have been abused by this nation regardless of the President or composition of Congress.

However, the failure of the Bush Administration to have a coherent plan for this quagmire in Iraq, from day one, has resulted in more and more of our Veterans falling through the cracks.

We went to Iraq with fewer troops to accomplish the mission. Even though you have announced that combat operations in Iraq have ended, 3,000 service members have perished after your aircraft stunt.

Our troops in Iraq did not have the proper body armor. In fact, when young Marines spent thousands of dollars for some "gator" body armor, your leaders warned them that any soldier or Marine who perished while wearing said body armor, would have their life insurance voided. How many more soldiers died because of that?

Their vehicles did not have the proper armor. We still hear about Humvee's that do not have the necessary armor for the situation. One brave and patriotic soldier stated that he would ask for Donald Rumsfeld to resign, if he ever saw him in Iraq.

Despite more and more soldiers being wounded in action, the DoD is allowing exponentially less disability retirements and settlements.

The system has failed our Veterans and our soldiers.

What I find even more appalling though is the notion that this is the first that the Commander in Chief, has heard of this.

Was anyone paying attention in October 2003?

The Reserve and National Guard soldiers are on what the Army calls "medical
hold," while the Army decides how sick or disabled they are and what
benefits — if any — they should get as a result.

Some of the soldiers said they have waited six hours a day for an appointment without seeing a doctor. Others described waiting weeks or months without getting a diagnosis or proper treatment.

The soldiers said professional active duty personnel are getting better treatment while troops who serve in the National Guard or Army Reserve are left to wallow in medical hold.

"It is not an Army of One. It is the Army of two — Army and Reserves," said one soldier who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which she developed a serious heart condition and strange skin ailment.
And what about 400 more soldiers at Fort Knox?

It followed the Fort Stewart scandal.

Following reports from Fort Stewart, Senate investigators said that the medical
system at that post was overwhelmed and they were looking into whether the
situation was Army-wide.

Army officials at the Pentagon said they are investigating that possibility. "We are absolutely taking a look at this across the Army and not just at Fort Stewart," Army spokesman Joe Burlas said Wednesday.
Four years later, I must say that it is a nation wide problem.

Senators Patrick Leahy
and Kit Bonds both called for investigations into the matter.

Both senators sent staff to investigate press reports that injured and sick Guard and Reserve troops were receiving inadequate care and unsuitable housing at the Army's Ft. Stewart training base in Georgia. Further inquiries into soldiers' medical care and living conditions were also made at Ft. Knox and Campbell.

The report the senators issued on their findings concluded that a shortage of
medical personnel resulted in long delays for care. This problem was further
compounded by injured or ill soldiers being housed in barracks inappropriate for
their condition. The senators also found a perception among the Reservists that
the quality of care they were receiving was not the same as the care provided
the traditional active duty soldier.

Their request to GAO also asks for an investigation to address the problems identified in the Bond-Leahy report. Specifically, they ask GAO to determine the scope of the problem, including the medical hold process and how many Reservists were activated with pre-existing conditions; the quality of housing for soldiers on medical hold; the state of medical care at mobilization sites for soldiers in medical hold; if sufficient medical liaisons are available to Reservists; the leadership and unit structure for Reservists on medical hold; and whether Reservists and active duty soldiers receive the same level of care and housing. Bond and Leahy expect the GAO to develop recommendations on how to streamline the process, improve housing and
the entire mobilization process.

In addition to staff investigations and the GAO request, Bond has had recent meetings with high-level Department of Defense officials, including Acting Secretary of the Army, Les Brownlee. Secretary Brownlee assured Bond that the Army has already begun to respond to the problem, including moving soldiers to other facilities so they can receive more timely care.

What happened?

Because it was not a part of the neo-conservative GOP agenda, it went no where. That's how the neo-conservative Republicans controlled Congress. Issues such as this could not get committee hearings, as the agenda was controlled by the neo-cons.

From top to bottom, leaders need to be relived of command. The Secretary of the Army is out, as is the Commander for Walter Reed. Of course, younger non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers are taking the brunt of the blame. I am waiting for General Kiley to be fired, and if Gates will not do it, Congress should step up and do it.

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