The Bush administration claims to support the troops, but in so many ways they have proven the opposite. Now the latest news on this comes from an expose in the WaPo, describing the deplorable conditions at the Army’s top medical facility. The picture Dana Priest and and Anne Hull paint is not a pretty one and it’s just another glaring example of the failures of the Bush administration. They sent our young men and women off to a war based on lies and the wounded come home to this:
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.
This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We hear the stories of Walter Reed being the “crown jewel of military medicine” but the truth is that “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.”
Almost 700 of them — the majority soldiers, with some Marines — have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.
They suffer from brain injuries, severed arms and legs, organ and back damage, and various degrees of post-traumatic stress. Their legions have grown so exponentially — they outnumber hospital patients at Walter Reed 17 to 1 — that they take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army. The average stay is 10 months, but some have been stuck there for as long as two years.
Some of the wounded say that “on the worst days,” they feel as though “they are living a chapter of ‘Catch-22.’”
The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.
Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers’ families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.
“We’ve done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it,” said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. “We don’t know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don’t have the answers. It’s a nonstop process of stalling.”
During his last visit to Walter Reed, just days before Christmas, Bush said, “We owe them all we can give them. Not only for when they’re in harm’s way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service.” I doubt he toured the areas of Walter Reed decribed in this expose. He’s too deep in denial to admit it even exists.
I can’t even begin to describe the sadness and outrage I felt at reading this 5 page expose. Priest and Hull report that “many soldiers with impaired memory from brain injuries sat for weeks with no appointments and no help from the staff to arrange them.”
This is not supporting the troops. This is gross neglect. This is bureaucratic abuse. The Bush administration, the Republican members of Congress who claim to support the troops ought to be ashamed. But, they know no shame.
How can stuff like this happen there?:
…Cpl. Jeremy Harper, returned from Iraq with PTSD after seeing three buddies die. He kept his room dark, refused his combat medals and always seemed heavily medicated, said people who knew him. According to his mother, Harper was drunkenly wandering the lobby of the Mologne House on New Year’s Eve 2004, looking for a ride home to West Virginia. The next morning he was found dead in his room. An autopsy showed alcohol poisoning, she said.
“I can’t understand how they could have let kids under the age of 21 have liquor,” said Victoria Harper, crying. “He was supposed to be right there at Walter Reed hospital. . . . I feel that they didn’t take care of him or watch him as close as they should have.”
Those who complain are told by their platoon sergeants — ‘Suck it up!’
Where is the accountability for this gross neglect? When does it stop? BushCo wants to escalate the war in Iraq and they can’t even manage the wounded here at home. This isn’t our war. The men and women coming from Iraq don’t deserve this. We need to Set A Deadline. We need to stop the madness.
RELATED POST: Donnie has more here… Is this the way you support the troops?