Bush Forms Commission to Review Troops’ Health Care
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2007 In response to problems recently reported at the Army’s top medical center, President Bush today said his office is creating a bipartisan commission to review the overall quality of health care wounded servicemembers receive.
In his weekly radio address, Bush called the reported problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center “unacceptable” and said the commission will review the care wounded servicemembers receive from the time they are injured on the battlefield to when they return to civilian life as veterans.
“This country has a moral obligation to provide our servicemen and women with the best possible care and treatment. They deserve it, and they will get it,” he said.
On Feb. 23, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates toured the center’s outpatient facility Building 18, where reported maintenance and administrative problems catapulted the center into the national spotlight in a series of Washington Post articles. He said injured servicemembers should not return home to battle the bureaucracies of a broken outpatient health care system.
The secretary of the Army yesterday fired the center’s commander, Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, citing “lost trust and confidence” in his leadership abilities. The commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, will fill the spot temporarily.
Bush acknowledged that most of the staff members at Walter Reed are “dedicated professionals.”
“Walter Reed has a long tradition of outstanding medical service,” Bush said, and he pledged that his administration will ensure that the soldiers recovering there are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned.
Commission members will be announced in the next few days, Bush said.
Gates also formed an independent review group to investigate the reports of substandard living conditions and bogged-down administrative processes.
If Bush’s fiscal 2008 budget proposal is approved, Veterans Affairs health care funding has increased by 83 percent over the past six years, from about $20 billion to more than $36 billion, he said. Bush is asking Congress for more than $86 billion overall for veterans' services this year. If approved, it would be a 77 percent increase since Bush took office.