Walter Reed Army Hospital disgrace for helpless Military Vets care
Hit Counter
Since 03-04-07



From: Lowell J Mix []
Sent: Saturday, March 03, 2007 6:51 PM
Subject: Walter Reed Army Hospital

MILITARY GRASS ROOTERS:  Not too long ago, the House Veterans Affairs Committee had a staunch supporter of the military Veteran.  He was Representative Chris Smith the Chairman of the House Veterans Committee.  Unfortunately he was fired from the position by then House Speaker Dennis Hastert because of support of the military veteran.  In his place, Representative Steve Buyer was appointed and the rest is history and the military veteran ceased to become a priority. Chairman Buyer would not buck the speaker and the majority in the U. S. House of Representatives. As many veterans know, we now have Representative Filner who champions the cause of the military veteran.  As the below article from the Star Ledger states, "You can't provide medical care on the cheap". 

Star Ledger  - Voice of New Jersey
Helpless veterans, unheeded - ex-chairman

When congressman Chris Smith learned about the shameful treatment of injured war veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center, he knew the root cause right away.

This was the work of scurvy politicians who vote for war, then skimp on funding medical treatment for the broken soldiers returning home.

"You can't provide medical care on the cheap," says Smith, a Republican from Mercer County. "I argued about this desperately when I was chairman."

Note the past tense. It's extremely rare for the chairman of a congressional panel to get fired, but that's what happened to Smith a few years ago when he was bumped from the Veterans Affairs Committee.

His offense was to fight his own party's efforts to pinch spending on medical care for veterans. Smith was warned, but he stood his ground and even persuaded 58 other Republicans to join his failed revolt.

As punishment, the leadership took away his gavel and gave it to someone more malleable.

"I didn't want to leave the committee," Smith says. "But when I was summoned to Tom DeLay's office repeatedly to be admonished, I didn't take it. I gave it right back to him. My feeling was that if you're not going to try to make a difference for veterans, then why are you here?"

Maybe if more politicians had that attitude, we would not be reading the horror stories from Walter Reed published recently in the Washington Post.

We've heard a great deal about the miracles that take place at Walter Reed, where hundreds of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have come for amputations, brain surgery and mental health care.

The problem is not the acute care. It's the treatment they're receiving as they recover at outpatient programs.

Some vets are living in hovels overrun with mice and mold. Some are waiting months for their doctor's appointments. Visiting family members sometimes sleep on floors. And patients with brain injuries are told to arrange their care for themselves.

The bureaucracy these patients face is keeping them in limbo for months, sometimes more than a year. The Post found that the typical soldier is required to file 22 documents with eight different commands to enter and exist the medical process. Sixteen information systems are used to process the forms, and most of them cannot communicate with each other.

Congress is launching three separate investigations, so we will learn more about what went wrong at Walter Reed.

But Smith says he's certain that money will be the core. That's what he found when he investigated similar problems at hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We found guys lying in their own feces who had not been turned," he said. "There was a lack of even basic health care.

"And resources equals care. If you don't have the right ratio of nurses to patients, if you don't have a sufficient number of specialists, then you get substandard care."

Ask for money, and you will find yourself in the political mosh pit competing with others who have their own causes. And there are some sharp elbows in that pit, as Smith learned the hard way.

It would be nice if we could at least agree on a few basics. For one, when we cut taxes while waging a war that costs about $2 billion per week, we are asking for this kind of trouble.

But even with this pressure, shortchanging the veterans is a moral affront. There ought to be a consensus on that.

These are the men and women who lost legs and arms because we asked them to take that risk. Some will spend the rest of their lives in wheelchairs, and others have suffered brain damage that make them strangers to their own families.

It is pretty simple. We owe them. And the scandal at Walter Reed shows that we are dodging that debt.