Questioning the Treatment of Iraqi Veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center

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Questioning the treatment of Iraqi veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center 
by Donna Teresa

When I wrote my January column, "Taking Care of Veterans," I had no expectations on the feedback I would receive. The e-mails I received from veterans was overwhelming.

A few days ago, I received another e-mail from a veteran who sent me a copy of an article that was written by Dana Priest and Anne Hull from The Washington Post called "Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration at Army's Top Medical Facility."

After reading it, I just sat in my chair taking it all in. I didn't know if I wanted to be sick to my stomach or just cry.

The article exposed a little known area called "Building 18" at Walter Reed Medical Center. These two journalists investigated reports of serious neglect and shameful living conditions of our veterans who are convalescing at the hospital. Building 18 has been described by Priest and Hull as "a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients."  (continued…)

     

Walter Reed has been getting pats on the back for making leaps and bounds in medical progress and serving our wounded war veterans with pride.

How many people really knew about this disgraceful area hidden away from America to see and didn't do a thing about it? How does anyone with a heart ignore this? One must ask ourselves, is neglect what American taxpayer dollars are buying? The question that I keep asking myself is the possibility of more Building 18s out there in America?

The veterans medical system is overwhelmed. The convenient answer is that no one anticipated so many veterans coming home with medical problems from this war.

While military bases were being closed to save money and no anticipation of another war, services were consolidated, and the medical facilities to treat severe wounds and other medical disabilities are limited. While billions of dollars have been sent to Iraq for various reasons, some of our wounded warriors come home to heal in a room with moldy ceilings, mouse droppings, stained carpets, dead cockroaches. I'm not going to go further, because it gets much worse.

In all fairness, not all hospitals and clinics have these conditions and the medical personnel that serve our veterans provide the best care they can with the resources that are available to them. However, isn't one negligent hospital one too many? It should be common practice for every hospital and clinic big or small, servicing our veterans, to be evaluated and checked for humane care and efficiency.

Our veterans may come home from a war missing limbs, eyes, and with other serious wounds to other parts of their body.

Psychologically, many are still fighting a personal war even if they are far away from the battlefield. Does this mean that we hide them away because we are ashamed of them? On the contrary, America should be ashamed for what war has done to them and should be doing everything possible to help them in their healing.

Our wounded have suffered enough; must they suffer more in their own homeland? Because of this negligence being exposed, Walter Reed is now working on cleaning and repairing this filth. Unfortunately, the damage has been done to our veterans who will never forget how they were treated.

Is this how we support our troops? Will improved medical care be expensive?

You bet it will be, but I feel that our veterans are worth every dollar we spend on them, because the freedoms they have given to all of us are priceless.


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