Bush Promises to Support Efforts of Wounded Warrior Commission
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2007 President Bush today promised the co-chairs of the Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors that they will have the full cooperation of all agencies of government.
The president yesterday named former Kansas Sen. Robert Dole and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala co-chairs of the nine-member commission to look into problems with care of servicemembers wounded in the war on terror.
“I am concerned that soldiers and their families are not getting the treatment that they deserve having volunteered to defend our country,” Bush told reporters today after a meeting with Dole and Shalala. “Any report of medical neglect will be taken seriously by this administration and, I'm confident, by the Congress, and we will address problems quickly.”
The commission will look at the continuum of care from the battlefield until wounded servicemembers return to the community. It will look at both DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and outpatient facilities, White House officials said.
Bush said he wants servicemembers and their families to have complete confidence in the care they receive and that they believe the government is upholding its responsibility to treat those who have been wounded.
Dole was wounded in Italy in 1945 while serving with the 10th Mountain Division. He received care in military and VA hospitals and championed veterans’ issues in the Senate for many years. The former senator “knows the kind of questions to ask,” Bush said.
Shalala is currently president of the University of Miami, in Florida. She served as HHS secretary for all eight years of the Clinton administration and is an expert on health care and medical administration.
Bush established the commission March 3, following revelations of poor outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. It follows an independent review group appointed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. That group, headed by former VA and Army Secretary Togo West and former Army Secretary John O. Marsh, will focus on Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., and has 45 days to return a report.
“I am as concerned as you are about the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center,” Bush said in a speech to an American Legion meeting here yesterday. “My decisions have put our kids in harm's way. And I'm concerned about the fact that when they come back they don't get the full treatment they deserve.
“Many people working at Walter Reed are fine people. If you've been out there, you know what I'm talking about,” he continued. “They're dedicated, honorable healers who care deeply about our soldiers. … Yet some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve. It's unacceptable to me; it is unacceptable to you; it's unacceptable to our country; and it's not going to continue.”
The president said the commission will bring forth the truth and promised a quick response to its findings.