Post team nets Pulitzer for Walter Reed coverage

Staff members of the Washington Post won six Pulitzer Prizes yesterday. All deserve praise and recognition, but one holds special meaning for me as a veteran: the award given to Dana Priest, Anne Hull and Michel du Cille for public service in connection with their coverage of the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Their stunning series opened our eyes to the appalling state of the nation's premier medical center for wounded servicemembers -- and spurred a national debate on a very important question: What does America owe its veterans? By the time the dust settled, their reporting had shaken up the Army's medical chain of command, catalyzed millions of dollars in renovations at Walter Reed, triggered a presidential commission on veterans issues, and renewed public awareness about the struggles of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I salute Ms. Priest, Ms. Hull and Mr. du Cille for their outstanding journalism, and their service to America's men and women in uniform.

By Phillip Carter |  April 8, 2008; 6:30 AM ET  | Category:  Veterans
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I second the well deserved congratulations for the intrepid reporters who "broke" the Walter Reed story.

Now, 1+ years later, it's time for an equally throrough investigation into the wisdom/efficacy of some of the knee jerk, Army "fixes" to improve outpatient care.

Two things stand out:

1. The insertion of a shadow, combat arms chain-of-command in the Orwellian named "Warrior Transition Brigade". The Army Medical Department has been stripped of oversight/administration of seriously wounded patients. As the LT Whiteside case highlighted, this shadow chain of command can be in direct ideological conflict with healthcare providers and Walter Reed's Medical Leadership. When LT Whiteside's "Warrior" Commander dismissed the expert opinion of WRAMC's Chief of Psychiatry as "psychobabble", and the "Warrior Brigade Commander" - with NO Medical training - challenged the opinion of WRAMC's Commander (2 star General), I knew that this was just the tip of a larger issue.
If the Army simply wanted combat experienced leaders for Medical Hold units (like it claimed), it could have simply staffed them with MEDICAL personnel who had led combat arms medical platoons or commanded companies in Iraq. The idea that only Infantry officers can "get it" and need to "command" catastrophically injured soldiers is pure folly and ahistorical.
Given the well documented, systemic shortage of Army combat arms officers, we need to relook the wisdom of inserting a "combat focused" chain of command for the most grievously wounded returning veterans - most of whom will NEVER return to full service. We need to assist them with their transition to productive civilian lives and drop the "warrior" window dressing used as an attempt to "sell" the public on a war they have already turned against.
"Wounded Warrior" ... "Warrior Transition" ... "Warrior Care" ... this is the "newspeak" of the post-2003 Army and were unheard of in previous Army history. These glib terms were crafted by political appointees in Tori Clarke and Larry DiRita's Pentagon Public Affairs shop and are an effort to diminish the impact of the more appropriate term: Disabled Veteran.

2) The repackaging of Walter Reed as a "little slice of the Green Zone in NW." Seriously. This window dressing is a sham and diminishes WRAMC's proper place as the flagship of Army Medicine - a unique part of a larger PROFESSION - Medicine. The idea of dressing up Cardio-thoracic Surgeons and neurologists in Desert Boots in NW DC should be re-examined. Are we trying to create an environment for our wounded that they feel they are perpetually in Iraq? We're an Army at War. Got it. So is the Navy Medical Corps that supports our Marines - a ground force that has proportionally sustained more casualties then the Army, yet they have not implemented these Iraq-themed "fixes" at Bethesda. You walk in and it appears, well, like, a major medical center - not the Green Zone.

The Army Medical Department is feverishly damaging its "brand" to American Medicine and medical students and they don't even know it - that's the tragedy. Some day, when this all winds down, Army leadership will sit and look around, smugly self-confident in their "warrior" posture and wonder how they got so isolated from thier civilian peers.

The patients and our Army deserve better.

Posted by: IRR Soldier... | April 8, 2008 6:58 AM

IRR-

Hear, hear. Good to see you over here.

Posted by: Ray Kimball | April 8, 2008 8:52 AM

All deserve praise and recognition, but one holds special meaning for us as veterans: the award given to Dana Priest, Anne Hull and Michel du Cille for public service in connection with their coverage of the Unarmored Humvee Amputees for Truth.

Their stunning series opened our eyes to the no-bid Bushie contractor sewage dripping from the ceiling and spurred a national debate on a very important question: What does America owe its homeless veterans?

We salute Ms. Priest, Ms. Hull and Mr. du Cille.

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