In case anybody needed it, the Washington Post last week provided more proof of the value of professional news gatherers. The two-part series by Dana Priest and Anne Hull on the treatment of outpatients Walter Reed hospital (Part 1 and Part 2) has already resulted in a a Pentagon review, Congressional investigations and hearings, administrative promises and some paint jobs and is likely to receive wide Pulitzer and other critical praise. From the series’ opening graphs:
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.
What are bloggers, particularly mil bloggers, saying about the Post’s series?
Here are Andi‘s thoughts:
While this story does have merit, for every one bad story, and it is bad, there are five hundred stories of hope and inspiration that unfold daily inside the gates of Walter Reed. There are miracle workers who save lives. There are people who give of their time and money to bring joy and cheer to our wounded troops. But alas, these stories are just not sexy enough. Nor do they require covert operations on behalf of reporters.
Mil blogger JR Salzman , living at Walter Reed calls part 1:
definitely the most accurate story on Walter Reed Army Medical Center, my home since Christmas Eve 2006, and for many months to come…No one knows where to go to get things done, what forms are needed, or the SOP for getting anything done. Expect to go to half a dozen different places, getting routed from one office to another before finally landing where you need to, only to have to run around to three or four different offices hunting people down for the necessary signatures. To put it plainly, their system of getting things done is more than “broke”…Over in Iraq I would lead our 20 to 30 vehicle convoys through some of the most dangerous areas on the roads over there. Now I get treated like a little kid, or more so like a normal garrison soldier, not a patient with special needs. It takes me a lot longer to do things because I only have half a hand left. Little things like tying my shoes or zipping my coat are huge obstacles to be overcome. Forget about me putting on a full ACU uniform with boots. I can’t do it myself, so my wife has to help dress me.
Fuzzybear Lioness is more critical, at least of the second article in the series:
the second WaPo article (about Mologne House) was a breathless, vile and agenda-driven piece of **** ; the first WaPo article (about Building 18, an outpatient residential facility) was also breathless and agenda-driven but largely accurate in the issues it raised about the problems at Building 18 and the broken bureaucracy of med boards and treatment/housing for the wounded after their initial hospitalization.
From My Position shares his experiences at Walter Reed:
the chain of command at med hold actually reviews the lists of people going to morale events–to the Pentagon welcome home ceremony, concerts, movies, even Fran Obrien’s–to see if soldiers are able to work. Their thinking: if you can go do this stuff, then you can do work for med hold company. Sitting at a desk doing mindless tasks for eight hours is SO much like visiting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for a two hour picnic. It is so bad that they often pair tow cripples together, so they can keep each other awake, despite all the painkillers. It’s also pretty common to see spouses just sitting at the desk with their soldier, to make sure that they are okay–often, the soldiers are unconscious or barely conscious, in their painkiller induced stupor–but they do these jobs because someone decided that they couldn’t just stay in their rooms, and besides, they manage to have the energy to go on these trips, right?
He also has interesting thoughts on the
charities who help the wounded–whether flying them or their families to hospitals, making Velcro clothes so they can dress themselves, helping to take care of the soldier’s kids, getting them a drastically discounted rental vehicle so they can get from hospital to hotel and back, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam. Every single gap that a charity had to fill equates to a leadership failure–a failure to recognize the unique needs of the soldiers and their families…. when a wounded soldier has to rely on the sympathy and charity of others to simply live day to day, to meet his most basic needs, then the Army, and the government as a whole, has failed them.