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Veterans Face Neglect and Frustration on Road to Recovery

Posted on Feb 19, 2007

The wounded continue to accumulate at Walter Reed, but soldiers face a limbo of staff limitations, exhausted caseworkers, bureaucratic red tape and long recoveries. This two-part series from The Washington Post is a must-read investigation of the “safety net” that is failing the veterans of this war.

Part I: Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility
By Dana Priest and Anne Hull

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.

Part II: The Hotel Aftermath
By Anne Hull and Dana Priest
The conflict in Iraq has hatched a virtual town of desperation and dysfunction, clinging to the pilings of Walter Reed. The wounded are socked away for months and years in random buildings and barracks in and around this military post.

The luckiest stay at Mologne House, a four-story hotel on a grassy slope behind the hospital. Mologne House opened 10 years ago as a short-term lodging facility for military personnel, retirees and their family members. Then came Sept. 11 and five years of sustained warfare. Now, the silver walkers of retired generals convalescing from hip surgery have been replaced by prosthetics propped against Xbox games and Jessica Simpson posters smiling down on brain-rattled grunts.

Two Washington Post reporters spent hundreds of hours in Mologne House documenting the intimate struggles of the wounded who live there. The reporting was done without the knowledge or permission of Walter Reed officials, but all those directly quoted in this article agreed to be interviewed.

From Truthdig:
“The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq”
Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” writes a compelling and empathetic piece on his personal experiences and concerns for a new generation of veterans returning from war.

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By Hal von Luebbert, March 5, 2007 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excuse me while I barf. Twenty years ago, when I wrote literally (and I know what the word means) scores of times to not only congressmen and senators,but every media representative I could reach, about VA mishandling of funds, theft of veterans’ benefits, and substandard care, I got not one reply. Congressmen and senators flatly refused to help or become involved. I had to resort to “guerrilla law” in order to get long overdue and stolen benefits for people like SFC W.R. Benton.

This story is “limited hangout.” What happened to all the money that should have repaired Building Eighteen (and hundreds more like it)?

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By Terry Sloth, February 20, 2007 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Some facts for Jim:

Department of Veterans Affairs doctors are furious over a recent decision by the Pentagon to block their access to medical information needed to treat severely injured troops arriving at VA hospitals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here is a list of the eighteen Veterans Administration Medical Centers that are under the ax:
•  Big Spring, TX
•  Boston, MA
•  Brooklyn-Manhattan, NY
•  Canandaiga, NY
•  Gulfport, MS
•  Lexington. KY
•  Livermore, CA
•  Louisville, KY
•  Montgomery, AL
•  Montrose/Castle Point, NY
•  Muskogee, OK
•  Perry Point, MD
•  Poplar Bluff, MO
•  St. Albans, NY
•  Waco, TX
•  Walla Walla, WA
•  West Los Angeles, CA
•  White City, OR

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By Jim Goodson, February 19, 2007 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Can you verify your story with photos of these conditions?

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By LG, February 19, 2007 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The “military grunts” and their families are those most likely to have voted for Bushco. Isn’t it ironic that they chose both their maladies and treatment by their respective votes. Bushco may be just eleminating their own constituents.

Remember, the V.A. system was initially founded upon the basis of a citizen, draft, military representing the country as a whole, both in character and goals. Whom does a purely volunteer, mercinary, military really represent?

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By Ga, February 19, 2007 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

See (and hear) about this on NPR:

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By Eleanore Kjellberg, February 19, 2007 at 4:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s just review how Cheney and Bush have supported the troops:

•  Waging a bogus war based on misleading information  
•    Not supplying the military with sufficient equipment to prevent injury and death—A great deal of Guard equipment comprised of approximately 64,000 items valued at more than $1.2 billion, has either been destroyed or left in Iraq and the Army cannot account for over one half of it. One would think that the Department of Defense has knowledge however of what equipment has been deployed and that which needs replacement. But stunningly revealed in a Government Accountability Report in October 2005 at the request of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Army “does not have a complete accounting of these items or a plan to replace the equipment.”

•  Forcing soldiers in Iraq to do three or four tours of military duty

•  Cutting military health benefits

•  Not paying soldiers a living wage

•  Using fraudulent recruitment tactics to entice possible enlistees  

•  Not ending the war in Iraq and redeploying the troops

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By David H. Pryce, Colonel, Infantry (Retired), February 19, 2007 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Disgusting, but hardly surprising.  Our brave warriors are being used, abused, and reabused in this madness.  Hopefully, these fine reporters will investigate the real “surge”—the “suicide surge” going on right now among our veterans.

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By trantieungoc, February 19, 2007 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What do Bush/Cheney say about those forgotten wounded of Iraq ? Are they playing dumb ? Even animals will never deal with their wounded in such way !

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By Bert, February 19, 2007 at 11:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If all that stuff is true, this is one of those instances where they should like, pretty much just start firing people.

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