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Panel Calls for Changes to Wounded Veterans’ Care

A presidential commission called for "fundamental changes" to the military health system. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., explain the panel's findings.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Some five months after a public outcry over the care being provided to America's wounded warriors, a presidential commission released its report today on how to improve the system.

    DONNA SHALALA, Co-Chair, President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors: We knew that the system had some problems. And we also knew that Band-Aids were not going to cut it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Former Senator Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala were tapped by President Bush in March to head the nine-member panel, this after disclosures in The Washington Post and Salon online of poor conditions and treatment of many wounded soldiers in outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

    One of the commission's recommendations is to develop integrated care teams for injured service personnel, like the panel member Marc Giammatteo, who was injured in Iraq and underwent more than 30 surgeries to save his right leg.

    MARC GIAMMATTEO, President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors: Throughout my recovery, my acute medical care was absolutely fantastic. However, I and some of my fellow wounded service members experienced problems with our outpatient care.

    The commission has heard the same thing a number of times during our site visits to VA, DOD, and other facilities around the country. That's why, in our report, we have created a system that serves by developing a patient and family-centered integrated care model.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The commission also proposes to overhaul and simplify the current disability and compensation system, require comprehensive training programs in post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries for military and VA personnel, create a Web site to allow patients and doctors to share information, as patients move to other facilities, provide more financial support and leave for families of injured service members.

    In addition to the president's commission, at least a half-dozen other panels have been created and numerous congressional hearings have been held to investigate major health care shortcomings throughout the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

    As a result, several top generals and Army officials, including the commander of Walter Reed Hospital, the secretary of the Army, and the Army surgeon general, have resigned or were fired.

    Most recently, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced he would step down by October.

    Earlier today, White House officials said today they would not act immediately on the commission's proposals. Then, late this afternoon, after a run at the White House with two injured soldiers, President Bush called on both the Congress and his own executive branch to implement the commission's recommendations.