The care of our soldiers...


10-Year Member
Founding Member
Jun 9, 2006
My sister works at Walter Reed & has told me how awful some conditions are. I then saw the following story today & my heart went to my throat. This is so beyond what I can imagine for these poor families. What a shining example of neglect if I have ever seen one. :unhappy: :unhappy: :unhappy: I'm sick about this issue. Thoughts?
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I saw this story earlier out of the Washington Post. This is one of the reasons why I am glad/happy that Walter Reed is closing due to the Base Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommendations. I see people all the time lamenting about it closing and upset, yet they have no idea what it's really like there. I'll give a few of my thoughts here while I think about it, and probably come back later to add more.

First my background: I worked at Walter Reed for around 5 months and have gone there several times for various reasons.

As the story stated the medical care at WRAMC is top notch as expected, the problem comes in when ancillary staff start to get involved. At WRAMC the ancillary staff tend to be on the apathetic side. They seem to just not care, if it's not in their job description then you better find someone else. The term "team" has no meaning in that place. This is usually limited to the civilian staff, who happen to do some of the most important jobs, ie nursing, case workers, etc.

One problem that the story doesn't mention is the number of soldiers who are "milking" the medical hold system. The numbers are low; however, there are a few who want to extend their stay as long as possible so they can collect an easy paycheck. I saw it too many times while I worked with the psychiatry department. As I state the numbers are low for this, but they take up space.

Second problem: WRAMC is in a horrible part of town. They even mention the drug dealing in the story. You look at Bethesda and it is is a very nice area of town.

Most of the problems they mention in the story are simply because of the way the Army works. Paperwork getting lost happens everywhere in the military. Multiple computer systems not talking to each other: every try to get your pay corrected ? Forget it. The problem is that these soldiers are usually not in a position to get it fixed as easily.

Unfortunately there just isn't room for all the outpatients that WRAMC is now taking care of. Hopefully the problems brought to light in this report will be repaired soon. And WRAMC can't close soon enough in my eyes.
See, I'm not the only one

Here's a quote from another messageboard that I frequent....

As a health care provider in the very setting this article speaks of who has spent countless hours of his time away from patient care battling the very forces that lead to these unacceptable situations, I think a large part of the problem lies in that senior military medial leadership has failed to set the tone that our civilian contract help will work for us...not the other way around. The entire process of firing a government worker or contractor who will treat our patients this way, can be much more work than actually unf**king it ourselves.

I am sorry... just fired up... I as well as countless other dedicated military health care providers here at WRAMC spend many hours passed our civilian support staff (who often sneak out around 1530) to ensure these men and women who have given so much of themselves are appropriately taken care of.

I agree with a lot of what is said here, this is just a window into the larger problems facing military medicine. I am glad the truth will be know to the public and just maybe we will get the help that is needed...But it is unfortunate that many of the people who truely care and dedicate their lives to this will bear the brunt of the blame.
My greatest fear is that the truly great & dedicated people, will be forced to throw up their hands and we'll all then be flushed down to the bowels of Hell, third world style. It has to be so very disheartening for anyone practicing medicine to deal with the red tape system that has been created. It boogles the mind that doctors can even function.
Here is another article:

One thing to remember is that this War is breaking new ground medically, in any other war many of these survirors would not have survived. There have been many advances in field medicine that have allowed these soldiers to survive, to face the aftermath.
We just don't have the resources in the pipeline to do it all yet - anyone interested in military medicine?
I know that both Army and Navy have really good deals for those who want to be Army or Navy nurses in ROTC.
Todays and yesterdays stories were not on the hospital, but on the 2 buildings that outpatients housed. I really do not believe they were aiming arrows at the hospital, but at the red tape and people dealing with paperwork for medical retirements. Also those who want to return to active duty, have to deal with these same issues.

So many times we spouses are asked to bake and donate money for clothing for the troops coming from Germany. The better off ones are housed in the gym at Andrews until they can be sent on to other bases/posts. Most arrive in hospital gowns. They aren't able to get to the BX, so they count on the spouses. I don't know if things have gotten better in the last year. My best pal's husband wears stars and was at Andrews, so I was more involved then. He has moved on. This year I am trying to focus on my kids, one is working on law school and academy is my other child. You look at these kids, and you see your kids.
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Yep Justawife. You nailed it. Especially with the last sentence. Makes me want to gather up some sheet rock & some buckets of mud & get my butt up there. This is about ONE building that is a disgrace. This is no fault of the doctors. Think what they must have to deal with. Not only the broken soldiers but hearing their complaints that they have no hot water and sleeping near mold. I really feel for them. I have no doubts that there are some who milk the system as KP2001 said. I just pray that the doctors remain dedicated to the people who really need them. I'm afraid I would blow my stack & then be able to help no one. I'd like to think I wouldn't but..... I'm so saddened by it all. Especially when I sit here in my nice home with no holes in my ceiling & I have such comfort in life and my health. I feel ashamed. Can you imagine the agony of this story being about one of our kids? Uuuugggg. I can't.
Eee Gad. That last sentence I wrote sounds bad now that I go back & stare at it. I meant something to the effect of seeing it firsthand. Oh who knows how I should word it. It all would be bad. Dang that shoe leather taste good.... Anyhow, you guys have probably seen the following:

Sounds like the Post is taking credit for the fixes beginning. Yeah right. :rolleyes:
jamzmom said:
Sounds like the Post is taking credit for the fixes beginning. Yeah right. :rolleyes:

LOL. Does it really surprise you? :rolleyes:
I have kind of been away from news sources since this story broke so I am not up to speed. My questions are as follows:
-Bldg 18 is described as being a lodge outside the gate at WR. Is this a recent purchase for the unanticipated quantity of outpatient requirements?
-Why are many of these patients not being transferred to the VA? Mention was being made to retention for our first all-volunteer war. However, many of these soldiers will never be retained and, in my opinion, do better at a more local VA facility.

The WP writer doesn't understand the benefits of soldiers being forced to maintain a regimented daily routine and treats it as a negative instead of a positive. However, the one thing that disturbs me is the fact that, according to the WR officer, they could not have their daily musters in the more conveinient gym because they would ruin the gym floor. I think there are some highly misplaced priorities here.
My two cents:

These articles are a series written by two investigative reporters at the Washington Post. Without getting into ideology and whether this particular paper is a liberal "rag" - Dana Priest is a well respected, Pulitzer Prize winning, investigative journalist. She only covers intelligence and has written for many years about the US Military.
Investigative reporting takes many weeks and months of research. She didn't just write the series last weekend. The US Army and the powers that be at Walter Reed most likely knew she was writing a series on the conditions. That being said -there is nothing like the prospect of being portrayed badly in the public eye to be the ball rolling.
It may be fair to say that the resulting stories in the WP could have a positive impact on making changes quickly.

Two more cents:
This war has produced many more maimed soldiers than anyone could have anticipated 4 years ago. Many of these soldiers would not have made it back to the US alive, even 10 years ago. Our facilities and personnel in military medicine have been caught off guard by the numbers and severity of our wounded soldiers.
With BRAC - I am sure the Army is hesitant to put dollars into a facility that is closing - but the soldiers keep getting flown in.
As many of them have been there for several years now, many more are being flown in from Germany.

This issue is very complex and the wheels of bureaucracy turn slow.
If only the WP would perform some "investigative reporting" on how the REST of the government woefully mismanages its affairs and squanders money left and right.

I don't put much stock in Pulitzers for the same reason I don't put them into Oscars, Grammys, or Image Awards: they are given by a certain group of people to people in that same group so as to tell each other how great they are.

If this facility is run-down, then it needs to be fixed. If priorities are shot, they need to be addressed. Still, from all I have read and heard, a very skewed picture is being drawn by the WP, and as always the skew is against the military.
1. Walter Reed and Army officials have been "meeting continuously for three days" since the articles began appearing, Weightman said.

2. Weightman said the medical center has received an outpouring of concern about conditions and procedures since the articles appeared and has taken steps to improve what soldiers and their families describe as a messy battlefield of bureaucratic problems and mistreatment.

Here's why the later story bothered me a bit. Lets take two quotes (above) from the story & read between the lines alittle. I turned in my associated press card 8 years ago so I am aquainted with how to make a story lean with subtle suggestion. #1 - The quotation marks around "meeting continously for three days" should have been enough without adding the 'since the articles began appearing' which Weightman couldn't be quoted on because he didn't say it. Sounds like they leaned it.
#2 I've read other articles that the improvement work had been ongoing. Its just that the articles brought it to light in the public eye. I'm not sure that the articles got people moving to do something about the mess. Some of it began before the articles appeared. The articles made the Army a bit uncomfortable in their position & should have.

I adore investigative reporting. It can do good things. But, we gotta be careful of that "lean".:scratch:
Bldg 18 is described as being a lodge outside the gate at WR. Is this a recent purchase for the unanticipated quantity of outpatient requirements?

In my understanding and looking at some older maps it appears that Building 18 has been in the hands of the Army for some time now.

Why are many of these patients not being transferred to the VA? Mention was being made to retention for our first all-volunteer war. However, many of these soldiers will never be retained and, in my opinion, do better at a more local VA facility.

They won't be sent to the VA until they are discharged from service. As far as I know they are not elgible for VA care until discharged. Also, the military thinks it bad practice to send someone to another facility for care that has not been completed. In other words they want to get the amputee back up to speed before sending them on.

With BRAC - I am sure the Army is hesitant to put dollars into a facility that is closing

They definately aren't afraid to put money into the hospital. The amputee center that is being built (may be complete now) is a multimillion dollar facility that was built after the BRAC commision results came out.
Oh there is no question that there is a political slant to the article. Probably a lot of improvements were happening before the investigation by the Post. Many could have been expedited just by the Washington Post knocking on the door.
The effect of the articles will be, of course, to put the situation in the public eye. If it is in the public eye then the public will put pressure on Congress and the DOD to clean up the mess.
Bottom line - do I think the Army is to "blame"? No I dont - it is a complicated combination of many factors.
Do I think the Washington Post should print their investigative piece? Absolutely. This will force Congress, the Administration, the DOD etc to act to rectify the situation.
Yeah, I truly hope that the interviews of the people themselves be heard above all & the Cavalry gets called in. If anything to get rid of the bad living conditions & get some more staff to help those who seem so lost. Sounds like they are trying. Did you see how far some have to go to get their meds filled? Wow. It would be so nice to have a runner of sorts to go pick up perscriptions and deliver to worse cases. Maybe they do. I dunno. It just seems such a struggle. I agree the series was good reporting, I just hated to see the last article turn into a gloat of sorts. I hope they go back in a few months for a follow-up story. It will be interesting to see how much things can improve with WR future closing.
Of the 20,000 wounded in Iraq, more than 500 are amputees. I won't go as far as JAM letting DOD off the hook. With body armor, she is correct thought, a lot survive who would not have beforehand. Probably some are even surviving today who would not have survived two years ago. I am no medical expert by any means but I would think that amputees would require a lot more psychological assistance than most other types of more temporary wounds. The Army should have anticipated this. The WP article, quoting probably the most biased patients, indicates that they did not and are not prepared to counsel these patients. As far as the quantity of wounded, I suppose anyone who would have initially countered our bull-headed ex-SecDef would have been fired.

I have no problem with forcing patients into a regimented lifestyle with mandatory musters in uniform requiring that they navigate obstacles to be there on time. This is, in itself, preparing them for life after the hospital. I think the WP article was biased against any positive ramifications from this and only wanted us to have sympathy for their perceived mistreatment.

My problem is that I always seem to run on tangents. The gym floor quote bothers me as does the official who is being investigated for improper solicitation of dontations. Are donations necessary to properly rehabilitate our wounded veterans? Cannot our government with taxpayer dollars properly and equally across the board provide care for our wounded? Last week a $50 million amputee rehabilitation facility opened at Brooke Army Hospital in Texas funded solely by donations. While I applaud people willing to donate for our troops, donations for necessary rehabilitation can be fraught with problems. I cannot fathom donated funds being equal across the board for all our wounded. Also our rehabilitation efforts will have to coincide with a donated possible non-standard facility. Our government sent them into battle. Our government should rehabilitate them.
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Recent Newsweek came down on all of military medicine. Interesting read, slanted.

I can't wait till we get our VA center opened here. I really want to volunteer there. I wish I didn't live so far away from the one in LA.:stretcher:
Breaking news:

Commanding General of Walter Reed has been ****canned by the Secretary of the Army. "Lost faith in ability...", and all that jazz.