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Building 18 at Walter Reed: Psssst, Wanna Buy a Mouse Trap, Cheap?

LongIsland.com

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Considering how much press coverage this has received over the past week, to some of you this might be nothing new. But for those to whom this is something about which you haven't already read, in a sentence: On a one-to-ten scale the Walter Reed Hospital rates an 11 (if the use of 11 causes you to scratch your head, Google -- "spinal tap" 11), while their outpatient housing rates something below a zero.

Monday Morning

On Monday I learned of the story that broke in the

Washington Post

over the weekend.

"

[In Building 18] 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. While the hospital is a place of scrubbed-down order and daily miracles, with medical advances saving more soldiers than ever, the outpatients in the Other Walter Reed [buildings] encounter a messy bureaucratic battlefield nearly as chaotic as the real battlefields they faced overseas.

/"

I was furious.

I sent out the word to my Veterans eMail List, asking the simple question: "

Presuming this is true -- what can we do.

"

As it turned out, I wasn't the only one less than pleased.

Monday Afternoon

Monday afternoon I received a phone call from Joe Ingino, First Vice President Vietnam Veterans of America ("VVA") Chapter 82 Nassau County's Chapter.

He, too, was incensed.

After having read my email he called John Rowan, President National VVA, who let Joe know that VVA National would be following up and that he would get back to Joe.

Tuesday

By Tuesday most major news services, networks, and cable channels had picked up the story.

And By Thursday


Washington Post

: "

...it also should not have taken newspaper articles to bring change to outpatient conditions at Walter Reed. And while filthy conditions at Building 18 are a temporary problem for these veterans, lowball settlements may leave soldiers and their families impoverished for life.

"

Concord Monitor Online

: "

On the stump, presidents and politicians are happy to sing the praises of soldiers and thank them for their sacrifices. But the real test of how a nation treats those who defend it lies in the care veterans receive when they are in need.

"

White House

: "

...ordered a review Tuesday of the care of wounded U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan after reports that many face neglect in the Army's medical system. 'I can tell you that we believe that they deserve better,' White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. 'Of course there's outrage that men and women who have been fighting have not received the outpatient care. We need to make sure that whatever problems there are get fixed,' he added.

"

VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars)

: "

The national commander of the VFW called Tuesday for a congressional probe of problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center... 'Disgraceful,' said Gary Kurpius, a Vietnam veteran from Anchorage, Alaska, who served 20 years as a veterans' service officer. 'It is an absolute disgrace that it took national media attention before corrective action would begin on problems that had been reported months if not years ago. Walter Reed's world-class reputation has now been tainted by a behind-the-scenes support element that, in part, doesn't work,' he said.

"

American Legion

: "

Every American serviceman and woman wounded or injured in the line of duty deserves the absolute best care, under the best circumstances, for as long as necessary to effect a complete recovery. [I]t appears that those military men and women assigned to Building 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are not receiving that level of care. The American Legion is giving those allegations the utmost priority and is investigating conditions at Walter Reed. Under no circumstances will we be satisfied with less than a full and immediate resolution of the problem alleged.

"

AMVETS (American Veterans)

: "

Appalled by recent newspaper articles, AMVETS National Commander Thomas C. McGriff is calling on the Department of Defense to conduct an emergency review of the living conditions and administrative processes at every U.S. military hospital in the country and abroad to determine whether what has been happening at Walter Reed is an isolated incident or a systemic problem. 'Supporting the troops means a lot more than just putting a yellow magnetic ribbon on the back of your vehicle,' McGriff said. 'Americans should call their elected representatives in Washington. Congressional oversight is needed immediately, and everyone who cares about the plight of veterans needs to let Congress know that.

'"

The "original" stories can be found here (

http://www.vawatchdog.org/07/nf07/nfFEB07/nf022107-4.htm

).

If you should want to contact your Representative go to "Write Your Representative" (

http://www.house.gov/writerep/

), fill in your state and zip code, and follow the instructions.

To contact our Senators, fill out the Web Forms for Senator Clinton (

http://clinton.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

) and Senator Schumer (

http://schumer.senate.gov/SchumerWebsite/contact/webform.cfm

).

And if you should send this to someone not in New York, to contact their Senators they should go to "Senators of the 110th Congress" (

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

), select their state, and fill in the "Web Form" for both of their Senators.

Where Their Mouth Is

To quote local Veteran Howie Belkin: "

Let the politicians and the public put their money where their mouths are. 'I hate Bush and his war,' they say, 'but I support the troops!' Oh yeah?! Make them prove it!!

"

Unfortunately

To quote national Veterans Advocate Larry Scott: "

The sad part of this story is that the GIs at Walter Reed have now learned NOT to trust any government agency. That will make their transition to the VA just that much more difficult for them.

"

From first hand experience, I would unfortunately and most certainly... agree.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt