FOR THE WEEK OF MAR. 12, 2007
Military hospital conditions provoke anger and action
This national story has local impact everywhere. Challenge the class to look for articles about nearby veterans hospitals, military families and comments on the level of care in your state.
This topic also touches emotions across generations and political lines. Ask students to read aloud a moving comment or a viewpoint they agree with from a reader forum, an opinion column, an editorial or a blog on this paper's web site.
Exposure of this situation is praised as showing the power of a free press. Others say earlier attention was called for after a wire service reporter wrote about nearly identical shortcomings in 2003 and again in 2005 for an online magazine, Salon. Invite students to discuss whether newspapers focus enough on military homecomings, treatment of veterans and local VA hospitals.
A new controversy related to the Iraq war is provoking headlines, House hearings and high-level military job changes. The home front issue began with reports about run-down Army facilities in Washington, D.C., for wounded soldiers and has expanded to encompass Veterans Administration hospitals nationwide.
An outcry arose from the public and Congress after recent Washington Post expos's revealed that some wounded soldiers were placed in outpatient facilities plagued by mice, mildew and mismanagement. The active duty victims of physical and psychological damage were sent to an ultra-grungy part of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, considered a premier military hospital.
Within a week, newly appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the commander of Walter Reed and forced the general serving as Secretary of the Army to quit. This week, the Army’s top medical officer was forced into retirement as a result of the situation. President Bush has appointed a bipartisan group to conduct a comprehensive review of conditions at military and veterans hospitals, which are overwhelmed by injured troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The nine-member inquiry commission includes two wounded Iraq war veterans and the wife of another.
President Bush says: "Some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve. This is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to our country and it's not going to continue." -- March 3 radio address.
Veterans' leader says: "Nobody would believe the military would do this to their wounded. We want accountability." -- Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars
Washington Post reports: "Stories of neglect and substandard care have flooded in from soldiers, their family members, veterans, doctors and nurses working inside the system. They describe depressing living conditions for outpatients at other military bases around the country." -- Front-page article March 5
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