Deepening Disgrace

March 1, 2007
Hospital Officials Knew of Neglect

Anne Hull and Dana Priest, Washington Post - March 1, 2007

Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that "there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need."

"I met guys who weren't going to appointments because the hospital didn't even know they were there," Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.

Rep. Tierney will surely be inquiring further during the field hearing at Walter Reed that he will head up.

The Budget Committee is holding a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Priorities right now, you can listen live here.

UPDATE: Following up on yesterday's shocking piece regarding the silencing of outpatients at Walter Reed, the Army Times has this piece today:

Army denies patients face daily inspections

Kelly Kennedy, Army Times - March 1, 2007

Army officials are denying that soldiers in the Medical Hold Unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington will have daily early-morning wakeup calls and room inspections.

But one Building 18 soldier said he woke up Tuesday morning to the sounds of sergeants pounding on doors and yelling, "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!"

"I was like, 'Jesus Christ, I'm back in basic training,'" the soldier said.

The soldier said the outpatient soldiers at Building 18 were issued garbage cans and cleaning supplies and told to keep their rooms clean and organized because of all the officials who would be making their way through the building during the investigation next week.

Earlier in the week, soldiers in the unit said they had been told they would have to wake up at 6 a.m. and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m.