Browse Primary Sources
"Less than 24 hours after this weekend’s two part series in the Washington Post on substandard conditions at an outpatient facility at Walter Reed Medical Center, Army officials and VA spokespeople were at the facility apologizing and pledging repairs. An undercover investigation by Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull found serious problems at Mologne House, ranging from run down conditions in patient rooms to shocking levels of bureaucratic incompetence. From the Post’s report: The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely — a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. The story was quickly picked up by the national press. White House spokesman Tony Snow found himself dodging questions from the press corps about the way the Bush Administration has handled care for veterans returning from the war. Democrats called on the Department of Defense to launch an investigation into conditions at nearby Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where critics allege similar problems have been ignored in the past."
The Health Care Blog 2007-02-21
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Army Generals Apologize for Walter Reed Failures" - Jim Lehrer and Kwame Holman - NewsHour
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.
Op-Ed: "Valor and Squalor" - (The Other Walter Reed - Washington Post) - Paul Krugman - The New York Times
"But as with FEMA, the Bush administration has done all it can to undermine that achievement. And the Walter Reed scandal is another Hurricane Katrina: the moment when the administration’s misgovernment became obvious to everyone.The problem starts with money. The administration uses carefully cooked numbers to pretend that it has been generous to veterans, but the historical data contained in its own budget for fiscal 2008 tell the true story. The quagmire in Iraq has vastly increased the demands on the Veterans Administration, yet since 2001 federal outlays for veterans’ medical care have actually lagged behind overall national health spending."
The New York Times 2007-03-05
"Being a journalist means not having to admit someone else got there first. Unlike academics, reporters can largely ignore their predecessors’ contributions to a given story — naming an occasional colleague or competitor if we’re feeling generous, dropping in 'reportedly' now and again, or maybe just giving no credit at all. This probably improves readability, especially in lengthier, more complex stories. It also lets journalists deceive the public — and themselves — with a flattering illusion of self-reliance."
The Boston Phoenix 2007-03-14
"Excessive pride, I believe, is the fundamental problem. The desire to be first with the news still permeates the newsroom at The Times and other newspapers in a way that makes editors and reporters feel defeated when they have to conclude that the information in another publication’s exclusive article is so newsworthy that it has to be pursued. I can testify from my own time in a newsroom that keeping the needs of readers first in such situations can be difficult."
The New York Times 2007-03-11
"Walter Reed's commander, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, says that conditions on the post will improve rapidly. His response is commendable, and it should not be forgotten that thousands of professionals and volunteers, civilian and military, are working hard to help veterans heal and adjust. But it also should not have taken newspaper articles to bring change to outpatient conditions at Walter Reed. And while filthy conditions at Building 18 are a temporary problem for these veterans, lowball settlements may leave soldiers and their families impoverished for life. . . "
The Washington Post 2007-02-21
Washington: Obviously this now will get some attention, but do you think changing a few faces in charge will really make that much difference? I got the impression that it was a general attitude that needed changing more than anything else. The comment, "what do you want, pool tables and ping-pong tables in there?" was a total dodge. Pool tables? How about a functional medical facility? Dana Priest: Changing leaders sends the ultimate signal to the military -- it's a big step, and seldom taken. How many generals have been relieved for failing to "win" the Iraq war? Just doesn't happen much. But you're right, it's the general attitude and the effort to streamline the bureaucracy that will make a real difference.
The Washington Post 2007-03-01
"They proceeded carefully, without identifying themselves to military authorities as they learned about the wounded soldiers’ experience and gathered the detail that gave their stories such poignancy. Washington Post photographer Michel du Cille joined them to visually document their reporting with powerful images. The trust he earned from the physically and psychologically wounded men and women provided emotional and poignant photographs."
The Washington Post 2008-01-25
"Much has been said and written about how difficult this story was to tell. Had the Army and/or the hospital known that you were working on this story, you certainly would have been shut out. How did you get access to the patients and their rooms? How did you introduce yourself to people you met along your journey at Walter Reed? Were you prepared to lie to gain access?Anne Hull: Working beneath the radar was crucial because we needed to see the problems at Walter Reed with our own eyes. We needed to roam around the 110-acre facility at various hours of the day or night and talk to soldiers and Marines without the interference of Army public affairs. We needed to connect with wounded soldiers that were not pre-selected by the Army."
Anne Hull: We never really thought of the word “narrative” when we set out to do the Walter Reed story. We didn’t consciously think about the words that you often hear at these conferences: voice, sequencing, empathy, storytelling. But in the end, all those elements ended up being in the piece. In traditional feature writing we seek to illuminate, but this kind of journalism sought to expose and bring about change. My colleague, Dana, had plenty of experience as a journalist who exposed illegal deeds and wrongdoing. Her reporting on the CIA’s secret prison sites around the world created a firestorm. She lives and breathes for impact. The highest impact journalism I had ever done was making someone cry. So we really brought a couple of separate approaches to our journalism. And in narrative journalism, in particular, we think of highly conceived stories. This story came about in the most old-fashioned, mundane way. Dana was sitting at her desk and her telephone rang, and she picked it up.
Nieman Watchdog 2007-07-04
II-Ward 57 Walter Reed Amputees - "Moving Forward, One Step at a Time" - Anne Hull - Washington Post
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.
The Washington Post 2003-07-21
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.
The Washington Post 2003-07-20
Q: Can you talk just a little bit about when and how this story began? Dana Priest: We got a tip from someone that neither one of us knew and went out to an initial meeting with this person. And the person had had contact with some families at Walter Reed, and those families had told the person about their story ... And then it evolved like really any kind of basic investigative stuff does. You create a net; the net grows. Those initial families put us on to other families and other families and soldiers along the way and eventually staff members and former staff members.
American Journalism Review 2007-01-04
". . . Col. Dan Baggio, the Army's chief of media relations, said Walter Reed's commander had already been thinking of briefing reporters on conditions at the medical center. But Baggio acknowledged that the timing was dictated by the upcoming Post stories, which ran Sunday and Monday and detailed inadequate care for wounded veterans.Priest, who reported the two-part series with Anne Hull, says she told an Army public affairs officer this week: 'How do you think this is going to affect our relationship? Do you think I'm going to be willing next time to give you that much time to respond, if you're going to turn around and tell my competitors?' . . ."
The Washington Post 2007-02-24
Spc. Wilson is not alone among Iraq veterans who have been misdiagnosed or waited for treatment for traumatic brain injury. Other soldiers interviewed at Walter Reed with apparent brain injuries say they too have been deeply frustrated by delays in getting adequately diagnosed and treated. The soldiers say doctors have caused them anguish by suggesting that their problems might stem from other causes, including mental illness or hereditary disease. According to interviews with military doctors and medical records obtained by Salon, brain-injury cases are overloading Walter Reed. As a result, a significant number of brain-injury patients are falling through the cracks from a lack of resources, know-how, and even blatant neglect.
Whether it is the lack of protective armor for troops in the field or, now, wounded troops paying for food, complaints from soldiers have shed an unflattering light on how the military bureaucracy takes care of its troops. And they have prompted accusations that the Pentagon is fighting the Iraq war on the cheap, no matter what the cost to soldiers. The meal charge policy "is an example of a much larger problem relating to the overall cost of the war. It is all an indication of extreme costs they are trying to make up on the backs of these men and women," said Steve Robinson, a retired Army Ranger and the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center.
The conditions for traumatized vets at the Army's flagship hospital are particularly disturbing because Walter Reed is supposed to be the best. But leading veterans' advocate and retired Army ranger Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, agrees that when it comes to psychiatric care, Walter Reed doesn't make the grade. "I think that Walter Reed is doing a great job of taking care of those suffering acute battlefield injuries -- the amputees, the burn victims, and those hurt by bullets and bombs," said Robinson, who has spent many hours visiting psychiatric patients at Walter Reed. "But they are failing the psychological needs of the returning veterans."
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."
The Washington Post 2007-09-27
Follow-up/Reaction: Walter Reed - "For War's Wounded, Space to Heal" - Steve Vogel - Washington Post
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-09-13
The Army's response included bringing in combat veterans to impose military order on the medical task of tracking recovering soldiers. The approach, which the Army is replicating across the country, depends on the decisions of a small group of officers such as Gventer, a cavalry trooper without a medical background, and on young squad and platoon leaders new to the world of helping heal physical and psychological wounds.
The Washington Post 2008-04-10
"After revelations this year of squalid living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares at Walter Reed, the Army took the unusual step of creating the Warrior Transition Brigade. It brings in combat-seasoned officers and sergeants to assist the facility's nearly 700 outpatients -- tracking their recovery, ensuring that their appointments are kept and watching out for their morale."
The Washington Post 2007-07-31
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."
The Washington Post 2007-06-19
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-07-26
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-07-18
Reaction: Walter Reed - "VA Secretary Is Ending a Trying Tenure" - Christopher Lee - Washington Post
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-07-18
"The congressionally mandated task force called for urgent and sweeping changes to a peacetime military mental health system strained by today's wars, finding that hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million U.S. troops who have served at least one war-zone tour in Iraq or Afghanistan are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety or other potentially disabling mental disorders."
The Washington Post 2007-06-16
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."
The Washington Post 2007-05-09
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-04-08
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
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-22
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "Fighting Walter Reed After Fighting the War" - Sgt. David Yancey - Washington Post
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-04-08
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-31
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-13
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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-07
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Apologies, Anger at Walter Reed Hearing" - Michael Abramowitz and Steve Vogel - Washington Post
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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-06
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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-05
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Walter Reed Changes Planned" - Josh White and Steve Vogel - Washington Post
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.
The Washington Post 2007-03-04
Reaction: Walter Reed - "Army Secretary Ousted" - Michael Abramowitz and Steve Vogel - Washington Post
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 Washington Post 2007-03-03
Reaction: Walter Reed -"Army Fires Commander of Walter Reed" - Steve Vogel and Willian Branigin - Washington Post
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.
The Washington Post 2007-03-02
Follow-up: Walter Reed - "Hospital Officials Knew of Neglect" - Anne Hull and Dana Priest - Washington Post
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-03-01
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.
The Washington Post 2007-02-24
"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."
The Washington Post 2007-10-21
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."
The Washington Post 2007-10-20
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.
The Washington Post 2007-03-04
I-Walter Reed: "Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration at Army's Top Medical Facility" - Dana Priest and Anne Hull - Washington Post
". . . Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment . . ."
The Washington Post 2007-02-18