Broad changes needed in care for wounded
President Bush has ordered a bipartisan panel to review care for injured military.
RESPONDING to reports of substandard medical care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, President Bush has announced creation of a bipartisan commission to review care for wounded service members. The commission appropriately will not limit its review to Walter Reed but will include examination of care by other military and Veterans Administration hospitals.
The announcement follows a series of disclosures by the Washington Post about substandard living conditions, bureaucratic delays and other problems at Walter Reed. As a result of the scandal, Francis J. Harvey has resigned as secretary of the Army and Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman has been removed from command of Walter Reed after six months on the job.
The president's action also follows a report by an American Psychological Association task force that many Iraq war troops, veterans and their families are receiving insufficient psychological help because of the military's mental health system. A 25-year-old Iraq war veteran from Minnesota committed suicide in January after being put on the waiting list for treatment at a VA hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The psychologists' report cites a 40 percent vacancy rate in active duty psychologists in the Army and Navy, long waiting lists with reduced access and a weak transition for veterans leaving the military.
"These are tremendous needs; the system is stressed by these needs," said Jeanne Hoffman, a task force member and civilian psychologist at Tripler Army Medical Center.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, says the Bush administration has underestimated the cost of caring for veterans who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries and other "horrific injuries of all kinds." The senator says he will ask Congress to approve a $300 million increase in expenditures for brain injury care by the VA.
Akaka says the veterans should receive the level of care given to ABC newsman Bob Woodruff. An ABC special about Woodruff's remarkable recovery from a brain injury while reporting in Iraq focused on how the government deals with veterans with brain injuries.
The psychologists' task force report and the ABC special indicates that no single area of care should receive special attention. The problems seem so widespread that comprehensive corrective action is needed.
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