Inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center 2003, 2007 - Salon, The Washington Post
Soldiers' Battle Shifts From Desert Sands to Hospital Linoleum
On TV, the war was a rout, with infrared tanks rolling toward Baghdad on a desert soundstage. But the permanent realities unfold more quietly on Georgia Avenue NW, behind the black iron gates of the nation's largest military hospital.Here, the battle shifts from hot sand to polished hallways, and the broad ambitions of global security are replaced by the singular mission of saving a leg. Ward 57, the hospital's orthopedics wing, is the busiest. High-tech body armor spared lives but not necessarily limbs.
II-Ward 57 Walter Reed Amputees - "Moving Forward, One Step at a Time" - Anne Hull - Washington Post
After Iraq, Wounded Soldiers Try Out New Limbs, New Lives
A 20-year-old private moans. In Baghdad, he camped out in a bathroom of Saddam Hussein's palace, stacking his Chips Ahoy on the shelves above the gold-ingot faucets. Now he lies on a gurney with shrapnel in his belly, beneath a balloon that says, "You're the Best!" Upstairs on the orthopedics ward, the beds are already filled with recovering casualties from the war in Iraq. There are different battles being fought on Ward 57, more private struggles. It's not about victory, but coping. Not about war, but its aftermath.
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Walter Reed Stories Factual But Unfair, Medical Chief Says" - Steve Vogel - Washington Post
". . . While acknowledging 'pretty distressing' conditions in some rooms at Building 18, Kiley said the problems were neither widespread nor symptoms of a system that allows soldiers to languish. The building is not 'emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families,' said Kiley, who was commander at the hospital before becoming surgeon general in 2004 . . ."
Defense Secretary Vows Accountability
The eight-member review group appointed by Gates has been charged with taking a broad look at all rehabilitative care and administrative procedures both at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Panel members "will be given free and unrestricted access" to visit medical facilities and interview personnel, Gates said.
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "Hospital Officials Knew of Neglect" - Anne Hull and Dana Priest - Washington Post
Complaints About Walter Reed Were Voiced for Years
"A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews."
Reaction: Walter Reed -"Army Fires Commander of Walter Reed" - Steve Vogel and Willian Branigin - Washington Post
Former Chief, Also Criticized in Troop-Care Scandal, Temporarily Takes Over
Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who assumed command of Walter Reed in August, will be temporarily replaced by Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley. But the appointment of Kiley, who had earlier been the facility's commander, surprised some Defense Department officials because soldiers, their families and veterans' advocates have complained that he had long been aware of problems at Walter Reed and did nothing to improve its outpatient care.
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Army Secretary Ousted" - Michael Abramowitz and Steve Vogel - Washington Post
Second Firing Follows Walter Reed Revelations; Bush Vows a Probe
Later, in an interview, an emotional Harvey appeared both apologetic and defensive. "It's unexcusable to have soldiers in that type of building," he said, explaining why he resigned.But he also said that the Post stories lacked balance. "Where's the other side of the story?" he asked, his voice rising. "Two articles in your paper have ruined the career of General Weightman, who is a very decent man, and then a captain . . . and the secretary of the Army. If that satisfies the populace, maybe this will stop further dismissals."
The two set out, mostly separately and never undercover, and did the kind of plain old gumshoe on-the-record reporting that often goes unrecognized in this high-tech age. They started calling family members -- names they got from the tipster. They went over to Walter Reed to see outpatient treatment for themselves. They quietly observed and did interviews that brought more tips. "No one was really paying attention," Priest said of Army officials, which allowed them to stay "below the radar for as long as we did.
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Walter Reed Changes Planned" - Josh White and Steve Vogel - Washington Post
Nonmedical General To Be Named as Deputy Commander
A one-star general -- who has not yet been identified -- will work with Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, a physician who was named on Friday to head Walter Reed, according to two defense officials. The new deputy will be a general who will bring a nonmedical eye to the operation to "make it run like it's supposed to run," said one Army official familiar with the decision.
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "Walter Reed Hearing to Put Spotlight on Kiley's Leadership" - Josh White - Washington Post
Kiley, the commander of Walter Reed from 2002 to 2004, has been accused of being brash and indifferent to concerns raised about problems there. After a series of Washington Post articles described the outpatient conditions at Walter Reed, Kiley said the problems "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them," and that they were not "emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families."
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Army Generals Apologize for Walter Reed Failures" - Jim Lehrer and Kwame Holman - NewsHour
Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was recently fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley apologized for substandard outpatient care at the medical center and vowed to improve the system at a House hearing Monday
SPC. JEREMY DUNCAN: The conditions in the room, in my mind, were just -- it was unforgivable for anybody to live. It wasn't fit for anybody to live in a room like that. I know most soldiers have -- you've just come out of recovery, you have weaker immune systems.The black mold can do damage to people, the holes in the walls. I wouldn't live there, even if I had to. It wasn't fit for anybody.
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Apologies, Anger at Walter Reed Hearing" - Michael Abramowitz and Steve Vogel - Washington Post
Army Chiefs Plead Ignorance, But Lawmakers Are Skeptical
Senior commanders sounded more contrite yesterday than they did when the scandal first broke. At one point during several hours of hearings in the auditorium at Walter Reed, Weightman turned to the soldiers and families behind him and apologized "for not meeting their expectations, not only in the care provided, but also in having so many bureaucratic processes."
Bipartisan Commission Will Evaluate Treatment, From Battlefield to Civilian Life
Bush's executive order yesterday created the President's Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, a nine-member group that Dole and Shalala will lead. Its mission will be to examine how wounded forces transition from the battlefield to civilian society and to evaluate "the coordination, management and adequacy of the delivery of health care, disability, traumatic injury, education, employment, and other benefits and services."
"Though there had been repeated calls for Kiley to resign as the Army's top doctor during hearings on Capitol Hill, he refused to step aside even as he was grilled about horrid living conditions and a tangled bureaucracy at the Army's flagship hospital. Kiley at first played down reports of problems at Walter Reed-- where he had served as commander from 2002 to 2004 -- but later was far more contrite.Kiley submitted his retirement request on Sunday, according to an Army news release."
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Substandard Conditions at VA Centers Noted: 90% of More than 1,000 Problems Reported Are Routine, Officials Say" - Ann Scott Tyson - Washington Post
90% of More than 1,000 Problems Reported Are Routine, Officials Say
"Staffs at other facilities raised concerns about patient safety. The hospital in Amarillo, Tex., cited problems with fire and smoke alarms, while several others described leaks that have created either mold or the potential for mold, in addition to air-quality problems. More troubling, at least three mental health facilities -- in Philadelphia; Montrose, N.Y.; and Fayetteville, N.C. -- reported the need for renovations to remove suicide hazards such as hand rails and certain plumbing fixtures. The inpatient psychiatry unit in Philadelphia is scheduled for renovation at the end of this fiscal year, and until then "constant attention will be given to ensure cleanliness and patient safety," the facility said."
"I was disturbed by their accounts of what went wrong," he said in a speech to hospital staff members after the tour. "It is not right to have someone volunteer to wear our uniform and not get the best possible care. I apologize for what they went through, and we're going to fix the problem."
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "Fighting Walter Reed After Fighting the War" - Sgt. David Yancey - Washington Post
A Soldier's Story
"I was hit while serving in Iraq with the Mississippi National Guard early in the spring of 2005. I was the gunner on a Humvee headed toward Baghdad. A bomb buried in the road exploded and tore our vehicle in half. The driver lost his legs. At the time, I thought I was lucky -- the blast fractured my left femur, and severed the brachial artery and caused major nerve damage in my right arm. It also broke several ribs, collapsed a lung and caused traumatic brain injury. Three days later, I was in a place I'd never heard of until I woke up there: Walter Reed."
Hundreds of Thousands of Disability Claims Pending at VA; Current Wars Likely to Strain System Further
"Hundreds of thousands of veterans, many approaching the winter of their lives, await VA disability claim decisions that will provide or deny a key source of income...Nearly 400,000 disability claims were pending as of February, including 135,741 that exceeded VA's 160-day goal for processing them. The department takes six months, on average, to process a claim, and the waiting time for appeals averages nearly two years."
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "VA Benefits System for PTSD Victims Is Criticized" - Shankar Vedantam - Washington Post
"The report identified problems with both arms of VA's evaluation and compensation procedures: A veteran currently undergoes an evaluation to determine if he or she has PTSD, and the results are used by other raters to determine the level of disability and the amount of compensation.The Institute of Medicine panel said the scale used to evaluate veterans is outdated and largely designed for people who suffer from other mental disorders. Andreasen and other members also said they had heard from veterans who had received wildly different kinds of evaluations -- some lasting 20 minutes while others took hours."
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Military Psychiatric-Care Overhaul Urged" - Ann Scott Tyson and Christopher Lee - Washington Post
"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "is very concerned that we're doing everything possible for the wounded warriors as they return, not just the physical wounds but the psychological trauma," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.The Army is hiring 200 more psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to help soldiers with mental-health problems, and next month it will launch an educational program on stress for all soldiers and commanders, said Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting surgeon general of the Army."
Reaction: Walter Reed - "VA Secretary Is Ending a Trying Tenure" - Christopher Lee - Washington Post
Difficulties Include Big Data Breach and Criticism of Care for Veterans Fresh From War
"The agency has faced considerable criticism for its treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as they move from the military health-care system to VA's, and for its chronically slow processing of disability claims by injured or sick veterans from all eras. Critics complain about lost paperwork, a shortage of VA caseworkers, a caseload of 400,000 pending disability claims and long waits for initial appointments in the VA health-care system."
"Army to Train Soldiers About Brain Injuries, Other Mental Health Concerns" - Josh White - Washington Post
"Army officials hope that the training will increase the number of reported cases of such problems as soldiers become more comfortable seeking help for nightmares, flashbacks and emotional withdrawal. That, however, will probably stretch Army resources; the service is already short about 270 mental health providers nationwide. There are about 200 mental health experts on the battlefield who help care for soldiers facing the daily threats of makeshift bombs, sniper fire and injury to comrades."
Dole-Shalala Commission Wants Bush to Act Quickly
"The proposals include creating 'recovery coordinators' who would help each seriously injured service member navigate the complexities of care, rehabilitation and disability; giving the Department of Veterans Affairs sole responsibility for determining payments for wounded veterans; and taking aggressive steps to prevent and treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury."
Follow-up/Reaction: Walter Reed - "For War's Wounded, Space to Heal" - Steve Vogel - Washington Post
At New Walter Reed Center, Amputees Try to Readjust to Life in or Out of Battle
"The $10 million state-of-the-art center at Walter Reed, whose campus is set to close in 2011, features virtual reality rehabilitation equipment, a gait laboratory to help veterans with prosthetics walk and run and a two-story rock-climbing wall -- all tailored to get troops back on active duty or on with their lives as civilians."
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "Report Says Fixes Slow To Come At Walter Reed" - Steve Vogel - Washington Post
"Army units developed to shepherd recovering soldiers lack enough nurses and social workers, and proposals to streamline the military's disability evaluation system and to provide "recovery coordinators" are behind schedule, according to the Government Accountability Office report."
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "VA Doubles Disability Aid for Iraq War Veteran" - Anne Hull and Dana Priest - Washington Post
"VA's swift action to help former Army Spec. Troy Turner followed an article in The Washington Post on Sunday that detailed the financial hardship faced by Turner after his PTSD worsened and he was unable to hold a job. Reliant upon a monthly disability check from VA, the Turner family slid into poverty, a grim reality for many returning veterans with invisible injuries such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.In addition to granting Turner a coveted spot in a residential treatment program at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, the department is increasing his disability rating from 70 percent to 100 percent, according to a VA spokeswoman, raising his monthly check from $1,352 to $2,781."
Wounded veterans still are getting the runaround from their government
"Despite promises for reform, the fixes have been, as one congressman observed, "frustratingly slow" in coming. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office pointed to staff shortages as well as uncertainty in how to tackle some of the thornier issues. Last week, President Bush sent to Congress a proposal that would overhaul the military disability system. The product of a bipartisan commission led by former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole and former health and human services secretary Donna E. Shalala, the proposal would end the duplication -- some would say duel -- between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs in judging disability and determining the level of benefits and care."