Less than 24 hours after this weekend’s two part series in the Washington Post on substandard conditions at an outpatient facility at Walter Reed Medical Center, Army officials and VA spokespeople were at the facility apologizing and pledging repairs. An undercover investigation by Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull found serious problems at Mologne House, ranging from run down conditions in patient rooms to shocking levels of bureaucratic incompetence.
From the Post’s report:
The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely — a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients.
The story was quickly picked up by the national press. White House spokesman Tony Snow found himself dodging questions from the press corps about the way the Bush Administration has handled care for veterans returning from the war. Democrats called on the Department of Defense to launch an investigation into conditions at nearby Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where critics allege similar problems have been ignored in the past.
The Associated Press reports that the Army has launched a formal investigation into Michael J. Wagner, the VA official who until recently ran the outpatient center in question. Wagner now heads the Military, Veteran and Family Assistance Foundation,
a Dallas based charity that specializes in providing care for troops
returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. He is accused of raising funds for
the charity while still working as a VA employee.
Three years ago, a story like this would have been considered off
limits by editors worried that readers might be offended. Expect more
pieces like it to follow as other journalists follow the Post’s lead.
The killer quote of the day: “If Iraq don’t kill you. Walter Reed will.”