Rep. Slaughter on the Silencing of Walter Reed

February 28, 2007
Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet

Kelly Kennedy, Air Force Times - February 28, 2007

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

"Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media," one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Rep. Slaughter, Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, responded today:

Decision to Silence Walter Reed Critics Would Be "Morally Reprehensible"

Slaughter Responds to Reports of New Orders Limiting Press Access to Walter Reed and Veterans' Medical Facilities

Washington, DC -- Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28), Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, today responded to recent reports in the Air Force Times stating that soldiers recovering at Walter Reed have been told by officers that they are not to talk to the media, and that CNN and Discovery Channel projects focusing on Defense Department medical facilities have been put on hold by Pentagon officials.

The article also reported that some soldiers recovering at Walter Reed believe that new and unusual orders requiring them to be awake by 6 AM and ready for room inspections at 7 AM may be punitive in nature.

"Last Friday, Secretary of Defense Gates publicly stated that the situation at Walter Reed was, in his words, unacceptable," Rep. Slaughter said. "The accountability he seemed to embrace was demanded by common decency and welcomed by the public."

"The only acceptable course of action for our military and civilian leaders to take is to fully and openly address any and all concerns regarding veterans' facilities nation-wide," Congresswoman Slaughter continued. "Any attempt to silence the very soldiers who brought their own mistreatment to light, or to hide ongoing abuses from the public eye - if such attempts are occurring - would be morally reprehensible. It would be an abdication of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of our government: the protection of those who have fought to protect us."

"Secretary Gates should act on the same principles of accountability and responsibility he so recently advocated and address these reports immediately. As a nation, we need to be honest about the care our veterans are receiving. Their enormous sacrifice demands nothing less."

On February 20th, following an initial series of Washington Post articles detailing conditions at Walter Reed facilities, Rep. Slaughter sent a letter to Secretary Gates asking him to, "explain why the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, once the crown-jewel of military medicine, has become a bleak and frustrating place for our wounded soldiers to recover, and what the Army intends to do to restore the integrity of its medical system."

As noted here yesterday, Rep. John Tierney, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform national security subcommittee, will conduct a field hearing at Walter Reed next Monday.