Four years ago, our top civilian leaders predicted a short war in Iraq in which we would be greeted as liberators. After hyping intelligence to persuade Americans to support invasion, their incompetence led to a lack of planning and adequate resources and facilities devoted to the care of wounded soldiers. The Administration may now, unfortunately, be headed down this same path again with the President's surge.
As Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I immediately moved to hold a hearing at Walter Reed to gain a firsthand understanding of the situation as reported by Dana Priest and Anne Hull of the Washington Post. Rats and cockroaches do not burrow and infest overnight, mold and holes in ceilings don't occur in a week. These are not new or sudden problems, and complaints of bureaucratic indifference have been reported on for years.
The hearing exposed clearly unacceptable living conditions and care for wounded outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed. Soldiers were waiting months, if not years, in limbo at Walter Reed, feeling forgotten, trying to navigate through a broken administrative process and layers upon layers of bureaucracy to get a necessary medical or physical evaluation or disability determination. Such an approach toward the care of our returning wounded soldiers is simply unacceptable.
Moreover, it is my fear that the conditions uncovered at Walter Reed are just the tip of the iceberg. Are we prepared this time for the increase of injuries, patients and wounded veterans? What concrete steps are being taken as a reaction to the President's surge to make sure that every soldier gets cared for properly?
Accordingly, the Subcommittee launched a nationwide investigation into all U.S. Army health facilities and any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities that may be involved in the treatment, housing or administrative processing of active-duty wounded soldiers.
If you or your loved ones are currently serving, or have recently served actively in the military and have experienced difficulty getting the care you need, the Subcommittee would like to hear from you. I encourage you to visit my website at www.house.gov/tierney to share your story. What the Subcommittee learns will help inform our continuing oversight directed at remedying this situation, ensuring that all our wounded soldiers and their families receive the care and respect that they have earned and that they deserve.
U.S. Representative John F. Tierney represents the Sixth District of Massachusetts.