Truthdiggers of the Week: Dana Priest and Anne Hull
Truthdig tips its hat this week to Dana Priest and Anne Hull, the Washington Post reporters who revealed the shameful treatment of wounded military veterans and shoddy conditions at Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Priest and Hull spent months working on the story, talking with vets and employees without making their presence known to hospital officials until their two-part exposé blew the scandal wide open.
In their exemplary exercise in investigative reporting, the Post reporters discovered that nearly 700 soldiers and Marines who had been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan were facing unexpected new crises at “the other Walter Reed” as they struggled to piece their lives back together.
On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like 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.
Tales of missing service records, overflow issues and unclean living quarters don’t paint a very healthy picture of Walter Reed, and the institutional illness exposed by the Post has had effects in the medical center’s upper ranks. On Thursday, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman was relieved of his post as head of the hospital, and on Friday the man who fired him, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, left his own job in a “surprise move.”
Hull and Priest’s exceptional and daring account provided a much-needed public voice for wounded vets and sent a message to the administration that, instead of committing more troops and dollars to the war overseas, we might do well to focus on caring for fallen warriors at home.