Hospitals: Army pledges fixes at Walter Reed By John Irvine

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.”

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  1. I have known Dr. Mike Wagner since 1977. He is a brilliant man, a creative, intuitive individual who no doubt saw many things wrong with the system and then came up with a better way to help the hurting…..with the MVFA…..He is very dedicated to his work. The way they are running him down before knowing all of the facts is truly typical treatment that anyone who is not a liberal Democrat receives these days !!! (“Sandy Burgler” of Clinton Administration fame…….who gets off scott free…..). If they are looking for a scapegoat in all of this, they might try to make Michael Wagner their goat…….but, personally, I have known Mike for 30 years…..and he is a great man !! jm

  2. The out patients at Walter Reed having to fill their prescriptions, some will find they are paying double the cost for their medication.
    While the media publish that the VA is warning veterans of telephone prescription scams, the VA continues it’s own in house prescription scam on millions of veterans. I thought that I would provide some insight as to one aspect of the workings of VA affecting prescription co-payments over-charges.
    As you may know, veterans pay a co-pay of $8.00 for each 30-day prescription. However, there are well over 1.1 million VA prescriptions that veterans are being over-charged for, in violation of the law. In other words double the cost. Something I’ve been fighting for over 5 years. Veterans continue to be over-charged and they will never recover their loss.
    I began informing the Veterans Administration in March 2002, that the VA is in violation of 38 USC 1722a, regarding prescription co-payment over-charges. Where is this case at the moment? But first, being unfamiliar with my claim, briefly.. paragraph 1 states, that a veteran is required to pay $8 for a 30-day prescription. This 30-day supply can be 30, 60 or 90 pills, all for the $8 co-pay cost.
    Here‘s the United States Code; 38 USC 1722a. “Paragraph (a)(1) subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary shall require a veteran to pay the United States $8.00 for each 30 day supply of medicine…if the amount supplied is less than a 30 day supply the amount of the charge may not be reduced.”
    Paragraph 2. “The Secretary may not require a veteran to pay an amount in excess of the cost to the Secretary for medication as described in paragraph 1.”
    I will explain the VA violation by illustrating in this example, a normal 30 day supply, using a 30 pill prescription, $8 veteran co-payment. The VA, using creative accounting, will use this same exact identical prescription and supply, and increase the cost from $8 to $16. Double the cost. Why? Because… the prescription requires splitting pills. This 30 pill, $8 supply is now a 2 month, split 15 pill, 30 day, $16 co-pay supply.
    While your taking in that $16 supply, keep in mind the 30,60,90 pill, 30-day supplies at $8 copay.
    Paragraph 2, states, “The Secretary may not require a veteran to pay an amount in excess of the cost to the Secretary for medication as described in paragraph 1.” And what was the described co-pay cost? To the veteran who’s prescription for the exact identical 30-day, 30 pill supply, “..as described in paragraph 1”, it was $8.
    There may be those who want to believe, these 15 split pill prescriptions, in reality, are $8 co-pay, 30-day supplies, as paragraph 1 suggests. I submit that, with no mention of quantity, but considering the abundant supplies shipped, the amount of the 30-day supplies involved, neither the Code of Federal regulations, or the United States Code itself, gives reference, to greater co-pay costs beyond what has been established for like 30-day, $8 co-pay supplies. This generous abundance…. of seemingly endless supply, and availability of medication of 30, 60, 90 or more, $8, 30-day supplies, stops at a prescription that calls for pill splitting. This $8, 30-day supply has been limited to only 15 pills, and has doubled in cost.
    To those of you, as well as those at the Veterans Administration, who may be confused, to the meaning of 30 day supplies, 38 USC 1722a paragraph 1 states, “..the Secretary shall require a veteran to pay the United States $8.00 for each 30 day supply of medication.”
    The Veterans’ Medical Care Appropriations and Funding Process, dated 9/30/2004. Congressional Research Service (CRS) report for Congress explains and supports further my BVA claim, and this 30-day or less cost. Stated in the ….
    The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act of 1999 (P. L. 106-117)
    authorized VA to increase the medication co-payment amount and to establish annual
    caps on the medication co-payment amount.26
    26 “This law allowed VA to increase the co-payment amount for each 30-day or less supply of medication provided on a outpatient basis (other than medication administered during treatment) for treatment of a non-service-connected condition.”
    “Other than medication administered during treatment”, CRS documentation describing the co-pay charge, and how it is to be applied. This is of further significance in understanding 38 USC 1722a. Meaning medication required in the treatment of more than one 30-day supply of 15 pills (split), this law does not allow an increase in the co-payment for, “..an amount in excess of the cost to the Secretary for medication as described in paragraph 1.” If the cost to the Secretary for a 45 pill, or more, 30-day monthly supply is $8.00, as described in paragraph 1, why then are veterans’ being charged $24.00 (split pill) for an $8.00 30-day supply?
    Imagine, 30, 60, 90, or more 30 day $8 supplies of medication so low in cost to the VA, and considered by the VA so insignificant it was not even considered as a factor in determining and setting the co-pay cost. 12/6/01,Federal Register: “VHA conducted a study of the pharmacy administrative costs relating to the dispensing of medication on an out-patient medication… even without consideration of the actual cost of the medication.”
    Update to my Board of Veterans Appeals claim submitted Dec. 29, 2005.
    My claim effecting VA prescription over-charges for split pill supplies of well over 1.1 million veterans’ remains on the docket as originally scheduled. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin made an appeal on my behalf to advance my case on the docket, because of the “general application” nature of my claim, effecting millions of veterans’. However, the requirement to advance relies on the precise language, “general application effecting other claims’. Because my claim may perhaps be the only claim, the BVA would not budge. Never mind the over-charges for those millions of veterans. For them, and me, those Walter Reed patients, these over-charges will continue. During my recent call to the BVA (1/22/07), I was told the Board is presently working on claims submitted in March 2005.

  3. Well, yesterday as I wrote the solicited comment below to the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, I thought that I should mention that when it is all said and done we will find out that the problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are related to contractors, just as is the issues with TRICARE, TRS, TDP and the rest of military medical care.
    I didn’t, but I am now.
    Last evening before going to bed I saw an article on the internet speaking of the issues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As I read it, I kept asking myself how in the name of the wide world of sports could one military member(s) do this sort of thing to another (s). It just didn’t make sense. Then the bottom line came up in the article and indeed it is the proverbial bottom line. It is contractors that are running at least the portion of Walter Reed in question! I was right! And, I’ll beat my next active duty pay check that the generals and other military officers have been screaming for months about the way these contractors are incompetently treating military members—only to be told to shut up and go color by the same esteemed representatives that are now publicly puffing their chests and screaming for action. Hypocrites ALL!
    ROA should not allow the organization to get drawn into the same bureaucratic malaise of hearings and commissions and blah blah blah (as today’s youth call it).
    Get in front of their hypocritical faces and tell them like it is– The outsourcing of the military services in this country must end! Or our esteemed representatives need to publicly announce that they don’t care if the U. S. succeeds at misdirected policy decisions anymore and would prefer to just keep making money for their buds, while they continue to get re-elected time after time after……
    I am a LIFE member of ROA and I am madder than hell! Get in their Face, ROA, and now!
    And next I am talking to NGAUS, PNGAUS, AFA, AFSA, American Legion, and VFW…………….
    To ROA:
    TRS is a god send as far as my wife and I are concerned. We are self-employed and this insurance option, while still costly saves us a lot of money in premiums over other insurance options. And the health care services that TRS provides and covers are more than adequate.
    Our biggest complaint is the huge black hole bureaucracy that is the management agency that administers this program. It is so messed up that I have to physically call them each time I go on and off active duty so that TRS can convert to TRICARE PRIME and then reconvert back to TRS after my active duty period. The TRS system cannot communicate with DEERS—TRS admits/has admitted that many times.
    The last period of active duty I came off of in Sept 2006 was a classic example of a bureaucracy from which there is no escape. I finally got that straightened out in January 2007, only after dozens of phone calls, letter writing and copying numerous other agencies, recruiting the help of my units TRICARE rep, who although is assigned this duty as an additional duty, spends most of her time working TRICARE and TDP programs for numerous Guardsmen.
    And TDP! That is surely another ugly story, including its lack of coordination with DEERS.
    Managed Health Care was a great idea and a new idea a few years ago, to get a handle on health care costs. No longer! It is a self-fulfilling bureaucracy of its own, which provides no health care value to the member and despite propaganda other wise, provides no savings to the American taxpayer. I have no doubt that if I spent some time to research the issue; I could show how the TRICARE, TDP, TRS and all other such programs are led by overpaid fat cats, who are milking the US taxpayer, prior to retiring on private beaches in a tropical paradise somewhere. I embellish, but am serious.
    I get more stress from dealing with ALL the TRICARE entities, than I do deploying in this war. In a couple more months I deploy again for 120 days (voluntarily). My wife will deserve the thank yous, Hurrahs and medals—she will have to deal with the management agencies of TRICARE. Along with dozens of other spouses in my unit who deal with the same issues all the time, with the help of 1 lonely MPF troop who does it as an additional duty, while the MPF continues to suffer manpower cuts.
    Thank you for this opportunity to vent again. I have been doing it for almost six years now. Pull the plug on managed healthcare in the US military. Bring it back to the military ( not contractors) to manage.
    Contrary to the blah blah articulated by our esteemed representatives linked at the hip to such corporations as Lockheed Martin Corp., United Concordia, etc. and others; money would be saved to fight a war, rather than buying hardware and services that have no value . President Eisenhower coined it—“The Military Industrial Complex”. It exists.
    Dave Palmer, Lt Col, PaANG

  4. Well, this shows the fallacy of a socialized medicine system. We have the greatest health care system money can buy. If we opened veteran heath care to the free market, these guys would be able to get great health care. It’s time to let the market solve this. I say close Walter Reed altogether.

  5. The Regimental Surgeon of the U.S. Marines Manuel Tanguma has inquired about the use of a medical device proven to aide in the prevention of concussion in NFL players. The NFL’s concussion expert was forced to resign last week because of his concussion policy and omission of these statistics. NFL statistics confirmed in an AAOP study that warranted further study, that was never done. Dr. Tanguma has communicated with a Harvard MGH researcher about a proposed study at Walter Reed. Now we understand, why it hasn’t happened, the Red Tape of the military bureaucracy. This is a medical procedure many at Tufts University feel, would benefit the troops. Troop MTBI is at epidemic proportion, many N.E. Patriot players testify, they stopped having concussions after being fitted with this retainer like mouth guard. If anyone has a contact, please make the effort to let them know of our problem. http://www.mahercor.com

  6. This is an outrage. Maybe it will open the door on all of the bulls**t that vets have to go through when they come home.
    With 400,000 vets waiting for their disability, is it any wonder that we now have over 1000 HOMELESS Iraq war vets in this country?!!
    If you havent seen it yet, check out this trailer for a new film about homeless Iraq War veterans:

  7. I’m glad the Post has finally gotten the cajones to investigate and report on this outrage.
    Now if they’d only done their jobs back in ’03 BEFORE we went into this maelstrom…

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