Apply panel's findings in caring for soldiers
A commission has suggested changes in the way the government treats injured soldiers.
A BIPARTISAN commission has called for comprehensive changes in the way the government treats soldiers and veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan to correct glaring flaws exposed five months ago by the Washington Post. In the absence of good will between the White House and Congress, the commission's leaders will need to continue strong oversight to achieve the needed changes.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, was skeptical about the time constraints placed on the commission headed by former Sen. Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, secretary of health and human services in the Clinton administration. Akaka praised the commission's specific suggestions but said he continues to believe the commission was "given too little time" to adequately examine the problem.
Other major studies have been conducted and significant changes made since the Post exposed miserable conditions at Washington's Walter Reed Hospital.
The Army initiated improvements last month in treatment of wounded soldiers, including creation of three-person units assigned to help each injured soldier in transition from medical care to outpatient status. The Senate this week approved Akaka proposals to improve care for those who have reached veteran status.
President Bush said he has directed Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson to take the commission's recommendations seriously "and to implement them, so that we can say with certainty that any soldier who has been hurt will get the best possible care and treatment."
The commission has disbanded, but Dole and Shalala made clear that they intend to hold the president to his word. That might be necessary.
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