March 4: Promising Action on Walter Reed

Democrats and Republicans today pledged aggressive oversight of the nation's military and veterans hospitals, following a Washington Post series of reports documenting substandard conditions and bureaucratic tangles that affected the care of war-wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Conn.), whose Armed Services Committee will hold hearings this week on the Walter Reed situation, disagreed about the Iraq war but pledged a unified front in tackling this problem.

The White House announced Friday that a bipartisan commission would be named to look at whether there are similar problems at other military and veterans hospitals, but Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), on ABC's "This Week," called on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to take a step further and appoint an independent blue-ribbon panel similar to the Sept. 11 commission, perhaps led by former secretary of state Colin Powell.

"I'm worried about if it's this bad at the outpatient facilities at Walter Reed, how is it in the rest of the country? Because Walter Reed is our crown jewel," Schumer said.

Similarly, Lieberman warned that the Walter Reed situation might be indicative of a broader problem affecting military and VA hospitals. Lieberman said he would even support a tax increase to ensure active troops and veterans receive the care they need.

LIEBERMAN: We are not keeping the moral responsibility we have for the men and women who are fighting for us in the war on terrorism, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... We've already had hundreds of thousands of new veterans coming out from Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers are going to grow. That administration is not prepared to give them the treatment that we have a moral responsibility to give them.

The problems at Walter Reed involved the care and living conditions veterans and troops experienced during recovery--not the state-of-the-art treatment they receive on the field and at the hospital's inpatient facilities.

Iraq: Democrats continue efforts to wrest policy

In what has become a weekly exercise, Democrats promised powerful action in the coming weeks on Iraq.

Rep. Jack Murtha

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the appropriations defense subcommittee, confirmed that Democrats soon plan to demand that the president certify that troops be fully trained and equipped before being deployed. He also said Democrats would require that troops in Iraq begin to return home within six months.

MURTHA: We can't send troops into combat without equipment; we can't send troops into combat without training; we can't extend it past the one-year boots-on-the- ground policy that they have; and we can't continue to have them over there in Iraq more than a year.

Also appearing on NBC, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Murtha's focus on ensuring that troops are trained before deployment is a veiled attempt to cut funds for the Iraq war and force redeployment. "He is using the readiness issue to stop the surge, and I want to work with Jack on readiness, but this is not about the readiness issue," Graham said, referring to the president's plan to "surge" 21,500 troops to Iraq.

In fact, "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert asked Murtha precisely about that charge.

RUSSERT: Deep down you'd love to cut funding for the war?

MURTHA: Yeah, what I'd like to see is a change of direction. What I'd like to see is more diplomatic effort. ... We could not respond to an international incident that threatens our national security because we've depleted our national reserve, our ground reserve.

RUSSERT: But why not cut off funding for the war?

MURTHA: Well, you don't have the votes to do that in the first place. We don't have the votes to do it, you can't go forward, and the public doesn't want [it.]

On "This Week," Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) argued that the various Democratic proposals on Iraq reflected the dangers of Congress meddling in the details of running a war.

LOTT: This is about the Congress trying to micro manage the situation. When the going gets tough, they're trying to figure out how to get out. And they can't get their act together on how to defund the troops, so they're having all these different approaches.

Economy watch: Paulson and Rangel

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appeared on "This Week" to soothe fears about the economy, after a turbulent week on Wall Street. A decline in China's stock market triggered a worldwide sell-off early in the week, and that along with cautionary remarks from former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan raised concerns about a possible recession later this year.

Paulson said the U.S. has a "healthy economy" and spoke positively of the slower growth experienced recently in some sectors of the economy.

PAULSON: You know, a year ago, when the growth rates were much higher, I was concerned. I said, "Is this going to be sustainable?" Now I'm looking at it and I'm seeing a situation where it looks like we're successfully making the transition. The consumer's strong. Exports have been greater than imports for quarters running, and they're adding to our growth.

Paulson also brushed away concerns that China and Japan hold too much U.S. debt and, thus, too much sway over the future of the U.S. economy.

Turning to domestic matters, Paulson, who left the top spot at Goldman Sachs to take his current post, said he was satisfied with the current system of executive compensation.

A few weeks ago, Bush warned executives that they should be more mindful of their pay, "step up to their responsibilities" and link compensation packages with performance.

Paulson also said the administration is trying to convince Capitol Hill to work on a new prescription for Social Security. (The last administration effort on Social Security failed badly in 2005.) And Paulson even said that in discussions with Democrats, "everything should be on the table" -- including taxes.

On "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, agreed that taxes would be up for discussion in coming months.

Rangel said Democrats are not considering rolling back Bush's tax cuts, but suggested they might be recalibrated to accommodate new programs or targeted to better benfit the middle class. "We have 23 million people in this country that have Alternative Minimum Tax burdens, close to $1 trillion over the next 10 years, and that's not even on the president's radar screen," he said. "And so within the system, there can be more equity without increasing the tax burden."

Following the same theme, Rangel said it is important to look beyond specific economic forecasts to consider the plight of the struggling lower income class.

RANGEL: It seems like we're living in two different worlds, one where they tell us -- the secretary of the treasury -- not to worry, that the economy is secure, and the other where we have 48 million people who don't know from day to day where they're going to get health insurance.

NOTES: Iran, Intelligence and 2008

--IRAN: On CNN's "Late Edition," U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States did not plan to meet face to face with Iranian officials at a summit this week to discuss Iraq's security situation. There are still serious tensions between Iran and the U.S. over the Middle Eastern country's nuclear ambitions, and the U.S. decision to join the security summit was a reversal from previous U.S. policy which shunned any such joint meeting with Iran. "We have not decided at this point with regard to anything bilateral, but we'll be prepared to play our role as constructively as possible," Khalilzad said. "There has been some recent indications that they are interested in a dialogue with regard to Iraq."

--INTELLIGENCE: On "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), former chairman of the intelligence committee, decried the state of the U.S. intelligence-gathering system. "We still don't have the intelligence community overall to give us, as policymakers, the information that we need to make good decisions in North Korea, Iran and other places."

--2008: Also on Fox, host Chris Wallace grilled Rangel, the New York congressman, about the Democratic presidential race, on the same morning that front runners Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) courted the black vote in visits to Selma, Ala. Rangel's word in that contest is powerful--as an 18-term House member and co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. Host Chris Wallace asked Rangel about his leanings.

WALLACE: [A]s a New Yorker, are you committed to Hillary Clinton? And wouldn't it be tough for you to sit out the most serious candidacy ever by an African American politician, and certainly the one with the most serious chance of winning? ...

RANGEL: Senator Clinton probably will be the favorite daughter of New York State. I am the dean of the New York State Democratic delegation, and so there's no question that we will be coordinating a campaign for Senator Clinton. I have to admit that I did encourage Senator Barack to actually get involved in the campaign. He's young. He's dynamic. And if he doesn't succeed, he gets another opportunity to run for it. But I told him that if he didn't run, he would hate himself for not testing the waters.

By Zachary Goldfarb |  March 4, 2007; 2:59 PM ET
Previous: March 4th Preview: Democrats Target Iraq Funding | Next: March 11 Preview: Baghdad Summit


Please email us to report offensive comments.

It would be better to cut some overpriced and overly useless defense weapons programs & redirect the funds to medical care... But no, we'll build more worthless bombs instead.

Posted by: Gentry | March 4, 2007 4:30 PM

They need a panel to figure out what to do???? Shouting Mother of Jesus, isn't there one competent person in all of this Republican administration? Get these chickenhawks and nutbags out of there--we can't affort to wait until November 2008!

Posted by: mikeasr | March 4, 2007 5:42 PM

It's just so typical of the Cry Baby Republicans to yap about how much they support the troops and yet they utterly fail them when the maimed most need the nation's help and compassion. I guess the president and the GOP really mean they support troops so long as our brave men and women don't need care.

It's shameful that the Republicans send other people to fight their optional wars (God knows those cowards aren't about to defend America), but they have no place to hide after this terrible situation at WR has been made public. I sincerely hope that every damned Republican, every single one of them is crushed at the polls in 2006, and that they are all reported to North Korea. They'll be happier there.

Posted by: Parakeeta Byrd | March 4, 2007 6:33 PM

Veterans have known for years the the VA hospitals are NOT the place to go for treatment. Yes there are exceptions but overall VA hospitals provide very poor care for veterans. Given the choice of a regular hospital or a VA hospital an overwhelming majority would that the regular hospital. I heard horror stories about drug experimentation and surgeries gone astray at VA hospitals. In Richmond's McGuire VA hospital my mother's friend went blind because of the VA doctors. Stories of terrible care at this hospital has been around for years. Go to McGuire VA hospital in Richmond and just ask. Veterans are not on anyones priority list including the Congress, listen to what they say then watch what they don't do.

Posted by: William Hutchison | March 4, 2007 6:40 PM

Anybody read up on this whole Walter-Reed/Haliburton Scandal? Before all the problems began in 2004, Haliburton took over for $100 million.

Posted by: Michael Finn | March 4, 2007 6:59 PM

Perhaps Congress, DOD and the U S Army MEDCOM will also step up and admit they have consistenlty rejected hospital requests for improved housing for medical hold personell. They have always placed these folks as an absolute last priority and rejected all requests for improved housing. I can only attest to this occurring over the last 33 years, however.

Posted by: jb hawkins | March 4, 2007 7:16 PM

It is interesting to note that there are so much similarities between America and North Korea. On one hand, America has been accusing North Korea of starving its nation by diverting funds to build more bombs, and yet America is doing exactly the same thing, diverting funds for the poor and needy and veterans and spending it on more bombs and new defense system. Isn't it an ironic?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2007 7:17 PM

Isn't it a hypocritical shame that all of these highly paid knuckleheads have the nerve to play stupid , like they had no idea that our soldiers when put out to pasture, were treated like disposed of garbage. It is a real shame that all of a sudden everybody in the high government is all of a sudden so concerned about how our soldiers are treated after they pay such high prices fighting for whatever we tell them to fight for. What a shame that if it were not for the Washington Post's article about the conditions at the nations supposedly top hospital, Walter Reed, that our recovering soldiers would still be counting rats in that messed up facility that everyone now knows and cares so much about. Heads need to continue to roll under the rug along with all of the problems that these clowns have ignored for all of these years. What a shame. Imagine how it feels to be a veteran that got wounded to come home to the conditions that were discoved in the nation's TOP HOSPITAL! SICKENING AIN'T IT?

Posted by: Bill W | March 4, 2007 7:57 PM

Sorry to hog and this is my second comment cause' I am still furious, but I left a suggestion out. Why doesn't Haliburton send some of their "people's" to come to Washington and "comp fix" the problems at Walter Reed. I am sure that they can take it out of one of their "special accounts" that got fattened up compliments of Uncle Sam and the good ol' boy network. Call the project "Habitat for Haliburton"

Posted by: Bill W | March 4, 2007 8:12 PM

This political talk is just that as long as Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley still has his stars.

Posted by: c, perry | March 4, 2007 8:15 PM

There are few categories of people that without question should never have to ask for health care ---and without any hesitation one of them is our military veterans.

The conditions at Walter Reed are just the tip of the iceberg.

Members of Congress in both parites should be ashamed of themselves for allowing these brave men and women who have for centuries fought for our freedoms to be treated as they are across our country.

Whether you are for or opposed to the 'conflicts' or 'wars' fought there is to be should no doubt in your mind that those who serve are to be treated for their wounds whether visible and physical or not visible, ie,some form of PTSD/shell shock.

To think that for years the VA has grown bureaucratically---but has it really served our Veterans and given them the best care that they deserve.

I know that there are Veterans that may have rec'd care but it wasn't easy to get.
I know of cases where the Veteran had to keep proving his "ailments" (*result of agent orange, PTSD) were caused by participation in a conflict.

You would think that our government would err on the side the Veteran VS. causing them more frustration by piling up obstacles to care.

The current conditions are no different from what has been dished out historically.

Congress only needs to pay attention to their Veteran constituents who call their offices everyday seeking help.

Over the years the only promise a military recruit got when they signed up to serve was that they would be taken care of for life(health care) if they were injured.

The American people need to know it could be their son, daughter, grandson, grand daughters serving in the future. How to they want their loved ones treated?

My prayers are for those who serve that when they come home they will receive (*without question) proper treatment and followup care for the duration of their lives. Period.

Congress should not go home or take a break until this most important part of our country's fabric (care of our Veterans--those who fought for our freedom since the beginning)is resolved and that without question the funds necessary to maintain the Vteran's healthcare are budgeted.

Posted by: David Moretz | March 4, 2007 8:24 PM

The actual medical care received is not the question... it is the ability to receive the care in a timely manner and truly able to case manage the injured in an outpatient setting.

During past wars - the injured recooperated in an inpatient setting. Now most of the care is being rendered in a outpatient setting. We do not have the resources. Our country was not ready for the many injured. To recover, we need to relook at the entire DoD/VA Health Care system and ensure access to care is available in an outpatient setting.

You can reach me at

Posted by: Lee - Navy Corpsman | March 4, 2007 8:56 PM

When Kartina hit New Orleans, it was God's call to tell the government to look after the poorest of the poor in America. Walter Reed is another God's call to look after the sick. There will be more bad weathers and more tornadoes coming to America.

God has given grace to America to do good, unfortunately, America has done many bad things to other countries. Massive amount of money that God has created for America has been wasted on hurting people in foreign lands. It is important to be kind and benevolent and show mercy to those who are weak and sick. It is kind of sad that the most powerful nation on earth has to resort to stealing oil from the Middle East by making false accusation against another country. God has never planned this.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2007 9:15 PM

What breaks my heart in reading about the deplorable treatment of the vets from Iraq is their suffering was all so pointless and unnecessary. So many lives wasted and broken for nothing.

Posted by: rpa | March 5, 2007 9:50 AM

The problem with congress fixing health care in any area is that they have their own plan that is separate from the rest of the real world. They should all be in the social security system, get Medicare when they are 65, have standard government retirement benefits insterad of the lucrative plan they voted for themselves. Our representatives retirement plans continue to become more and more elaborate while their constituents plans are not enough to provide a minimum standard of living. Under the current system they have little or no incentive to ensure their constituents receive what was promised during campaign season.

Posted by: Truman Reid | March 5, 2007 10:00 AM

The Regimental Surgeon of the U.S. Marines Manuel Tanguma has inquired about the use of a medical device proven to aide in the prevention of concussion in NFL players. The NFL's concussion expert was forced to resign last week because of his concussion policy and omission of these statistics. NFL statistics confirmed in an AAOP study that warranted further study, that was never done. Dr. Tanguma has communicated with a Harvard MGH researcher about a proposed study at Walter Reed. Now we understand, why it hasn't happened, the Red Tape of the military bureaucracy. This is a medical procedure many at Tufts University feel, would benefit the troops. Troop MTBI is at epidemic proportion, many N.E. Patriot players testify, they stopped having concussions after being fitted with this retainer like mouth guard. If anyone has a contact, please make the effort to let them know of our problem.

Posted by: Mark | March 5, 2007 10:35 PM

Repentance is preferrable to permission...Or so it seems these days. Oh, drop in a dash or two of forgetfulness, and all offenses are pardonable...Then, if all else fails, either fire the guy or send him off to rehab. Meanwhile, nothing seems to change in Dodge.

Posted by: Sonja Poet | March 11, 2007 7:22 PM

Walter Reed Hospital to Close....
Associated Press....
August 26, 2005.....

WASHINGTON - The base closing commission voted yesterday to shut down the Army's historic Walter Reed hospital and move about 20,000 defense workers away from the nation's capital. The panel also began shuttering Air Force bases.

The nine-member commission endorsed much of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's broader plan to streamline support services across the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In many cases, it voted to merge programs scattered around military facilities across the country to centralized locations.

HOW SOON WE FORGET. I guess things got too streamlined, right Rumsfeld?

Posted by: Sonja Poet | March 11, 2007 7:23 PM

I guess by streamlined, Rumsfeld meant privitize and the private company had to cut corners in order to turn a profit. Let me see, what is the symbol for their stock? RIGHT!

Posted by: Sonja Poet | March 11, 2007 7:26 PM

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