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
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.
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