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Obama, McCaskill Plan Military Hospitals Bill

Seizing on an investigative report by The Washington Post's Dana Priest and Anne Hull, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will introduce legislation next week to require more frequent inspections of hospitals providing treatment to active-duty military personnel.

The report by Priest and Hull documented dismal conditions that wounded soldiers endure at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Considered the premier medical institution for the Army, Walter Reed is so crowded that some wounded soldiers are cared for in Building 18, which The Post reported has broken elevators, ice-covered walkways that confined soldiers to their rooms and other problems. (The Pentagon announced yesterday that repairs are underway for Building 18.)

The treatment of the wounded veterans and recuperating soldiers has been a main talking point for congressional Democrats for the last two years, and one that Obama is sure to bring up on the presidential campaign trail.

In addition, Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates today demanding an inspector general's investigation into living conditions for the returning soldiers at Walter Reed.

Here's a link to the two articles by Priest and Hull, as well as a photo gallery of the conditions and an online discussion on washingtonpost.com:

Photo Gallery: Holding Pattern at Mologne House

Article: The Hotel Aftermath

Article: Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility

Online Discussion: Hull and Priest Answer Readers' Questions

Here are the statements from Obama and McCaskill, as well as an outline of the proposals in their legislation:

"Caring for our returning heroes is one of the things we can still get right about this war, and that's why the deterioration of the conditions at Walter Reed is both appalling and unacceptable," said Obama. "The brave men and women wounded at war should receive the best we have to offer and the highest quality of care, and that's why this legislation would cut red tape, improve service, and require frequent inspections of all active duty military hospitals."

"I felt sick when I read these articles about how our injured American military men and women are being treated at Walter Reed," said McCaskill. "They sacrificed and fought bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan. They shouldn't have to fight a whole new war at home to receive the service and compensation they deserve."

The proposed Obama-McCaskill legislation would:

* Simplify the paperwork process for recovering soldiers;

* Improve the ratio of caseworkers to recovering soldiers;

* Increase the training of caseworkers;

* Require more frequent IG inspections of hospital facilities and standards of care;

* Establish timelines and benchmarks for repairs to substandard facilities;

* Provide recovering soldiers with psychological counseling; and

* Require regular reporting to Congress on: the total number of recovering soldiers at military hospitals; the number of caseworkers; the average waiting time for treatment; and the number of suicide attempts, accidental deaths or drug overdoses.

By Paul Kane  |  February 20, 2007; 2:50 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

They need to go beyond just the DOD facilities and get into the basics of all of it the system for disability ratings, the fake giving of hope to veterans that they can get better ratings from the VA when they get home. To stop making inappropriate ratings of Bipolar disorder and PDO diagnosis for PTSD veterans home from the war, this is totally disgraceful to save the taxpayers some money, why on the back of the veterans of the war?

Posted by: Mike Bailey | February 20, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

They need to go beyond just the DOD facilities and get into the basics of all of it the system for disability ratings, the fake giving of hope to veterans that they can get better ratings from the VA when they get home. To stop making inappropriate ratings of Bipolar disorder and PDO diagnosis for PTSD veterans home from the war, this is totally disgraceful to save the taxpayers some money, why on the back of the veterans of the war?

Posted by: mikey30919 | February 20, 2007 7:12 PM | Report abuse

more reports, more administrators, less actual work done by fewer increasingly stressed people. this is great for the middle managers who were the reason nothing ever gets done and a disaster for the doctors who work longer hours for half what they would make in the civilian sector. the real crisis in military medicine will come in 2 years when the HPSP drought hits the fan.

Posted by: oh no | February 20, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

It's very disappointed to see the Post cheering on such hastily-drafted legislation when such complex issues were raised in the Post's investigation. Don't you think these soldiers deserve better than some "instant whip" legislation?

Providing adequate funding and care for the physical and psychological needs of the wounded will likely take some serious investigation and hearings in Congress. Also the problems raised in military disability evaluation and compensation system seemed quite complex as well. How can you possibly address that in a couple of days?

Posted by: Chris Baker | February 20, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

It's very disappointing to see the Post cheering on such hastily-drafted legislation when such complex issues were raised in the Post's investigation. Don't you think these soldiers deserve better than some "instant whip" legislation?

Providing adequate funding and care for the physical and psychological needs of the wounded will likely take some extensive investigation and hearings in Congress. Also the problems raised in military disability evaluation and compensation system seemed quite complex as well. How can you possibly address that in a couple of days?

Posted by: Chris Baker | February 20, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Yes, what we need are more extensive investigations and hearings in Congress. And then some hearings and investigations. Then, perhaps some more investigations and hearings. Then maybe they could make some suggestions and helpful hints.

This is a serious problems that needs to be addressed NOW. For all the "support our troops" rhetoric coming from the White House, you would think they would welcome this legislation. But then, when they say "support our troops" they really mean "support our policies." If this administration really cared about our troops, this situation would never have occurred in the first place.

I applaud Obama and McCaskill for there quick action. We need more leaders like them.

Posted by: Bob Odzinski | February 21, 2007 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Yes, what we need are more extensive investigations and hearings in Congress. And then some hearings and investigations. Then, perhaps some more investigations and hearings. Then maybe they could make some suggestions and helpful hints.

This is a serious problems that needs to be addressed NOW. For all the "support our troops" rhetoric coming from the White House, you would think they would welcome this legislation. But then, when they say "support our troops" they really mean "support our policies." If this administration really cared about our troops, this situation would never have occurred in the first place.

I applaud Obama and McCaskill for there quick action. We need more leaders like them.

Posted by: Bob Odzinski | February 21, 2007 1:21 AM | Report abuse

When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided to order Walter Reed closed, my immediate question was: what's going to happen to the facility in the years leading up its closure? One can assume that the Army wasn't going to be able to put a full effort in maintaining facilities that it was on the cusp of abandoning. In fact, I was afraid that something like this would happen. I'd bet that the priority for facilities dollars within the Army Medical system are earmarked for the new hospital complex at Bethesda into which the Walter Reed activity is supposed to relocate when the old hospital is closed. But bravo to the Washington Post for highlighting the problems that have appeared--just as I feared that they would--during the transition towards closure of the old Walter Reed hospital and installation.

Posted by: Art House | February 22, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided to order Walter Reed closed, my immediate question was: what's going to happen to the facility in the years leading up its closure? One can assume that the Army wasn't going to be able to put a full effort in maintaining facilities that it was on the cusp of abandoning. In fact, I was afraid that something like this would happen. I'd bet that the priority for facilities dollars within the Army Medical system are earmarked for the new hospital complex at Bethesda into which the Walter Reed activity is supposed to relocate when the old hospital is closed. But bravo to the Washington Post for highlighting the problems that have appeared--just as I feared that they would--during the transition towards closure of the old Walter Reed hospital and installation.

Posted by: Art House | February 22, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Little attention has been given to the soldier's complaints of lack of coordination of medical appointments and the difficulty in getting through the facility. The military could contact the Mayo Clinic for tips on how they operate so efficiently. All appointments are in a computer program so there is no overlap or omission and a cadre of volunteers manage to see that patients are where they are supposed to be. I would think organizations of retirees would eagerly volunteer to help these wounded warriors. It looks as if they gloss over the problems with a coat of paint when the real problem is systemic. The authors of this series are to be applauded for bringing this situation to our attention!

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Posted by: John | March 7, 2007 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Yeah I've heard some good things about Barack Obama. I heard he had an Iraq de-escalation act. Even people who supported the Iraq war when it began, would probably now agree that it resulted badly, with civil unrest and violence still occurring in Iraq: so probably Obama's policy is favourable, there. I heard he also wanted to improve the schools, and increase literacy rates, and all of that. I guess I'll have to read what some of his detractors have to say, to learn the negative side. I'm trying to decide whom it would be best to vote for!

Posted by: American voter | March 14, 2007 6:53 AM | Report abuse

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