WASHINGTON – Members of Congress are urging military hospital reform in response to recent reports about substandard care of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“This administration,I think,has consistently underestimated the resources that are needed to support our veterans,” said Sen. Barack Obama,D-Ill.,during a press conference Thursday. Obama introduced the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act with Sen. Claire McCaskill,D-Mo.; Rep. Rahm Emanuel,D-Ill.; and Rep. Harry Mitchell,D-Ariz.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Walter Reed officials had known since 2003 of squalid conditions at buildings housing outpatients at the medical center.
A Post series last week uncovered living conditions in Building 18,where hospital outpatients were subjected to rotting rooms,mold,mice and cockroaches. Besides room conditions,recovering soldiers suffered under a sluggish bureaucracy,neglect from administrators and denial of disability benefits.
The military has already begun fixing Walter Reed,but Obama said a government “blame game” is still limiting progress.
The Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act will cut through the red tape,McCaskill said,and is designed to improve mecdical facilities for soldiers and veterans,increase the frequency of inspections,reduce paperwork for wounded soldiers and improve counseling for service members and their families.
“This isn’t about paint on the walls. This isn’t about fixing holes in ceilings,” McCaskill said. “This is designed to make it easy for the wounded to get what they deserve.”
In addition,the legislation will create an independent Wounded Warrior Oversight Board made up of veterans,wounded service members,family members and medical experts to monitor health care.
Under the act,family members of injured service members would gain protection from being fired from their jobs while caring for relatives and would also qualify for medical care and job counseling.
More than 1.6 million soldiers will be returning when the wars are over,Obama said,“We haven’t done what needs to be done to prepare for that homecoming. If we prepare now,then we still have time to get this part of the war right.”