Iraq Vets Call for Investigation at Walter Reed
Let's hope the national media continues to follow this issue and the public begins to demand more from the Bush administration. This is criminal.
The nation's first and largest non-partisan organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, IAVA, today called on members of Congress to review the actions of the Army and the Department of Defense at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., amid press reports that injured troops were returning from war only to face squalid living conditions and inadequate medical and mental health care at the facility.
Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the organization's veteran membership was relieved that these problems have now captured the attention of members of Congress, but cautioned that more must be done to ensure that the problems do not persist once the glare of media attention fades away.
"Unfortunately, the Army and the Department of Defense saw no need to fix these problems until they were embarrassed by media reports," Rieckhoff said. "We hear a lot of talk about the need to support our troops, but conditions at Walter Reed show us that the talk does not match the reality."
Over the past several days, the Washington Post has exposed the horrendous conditions that recovering troops face as outpatients at Walter Reed: bureaucratic delays, overworked case managers and appalling living conditions, including black mold, cheap mattresses, rodents and cockroaches. Severely injured veterans are being shortchanged on disability payments they are owed, and mental health needs are not properly diagnosed.
Rieckhoff said veterans were pleased that Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) quickly drafted legislation that would improve the quality of care at the facility and increase oversight, and he called on other members of the Senate and House to sign on: "We commend Senators McCaskill and Obama for taking the lead on this issue. The items they have proposed, including improving the ratio of caseworkers to recovering veterans and establishing timelines for repairing substandard facilities, will go a long way towards fixing the inexcusable problems at Walter Reed. We hope we can count on other lawmakers to support this bill and stand with veterans in the coming days."