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Pentagon Forms Committee to Oversee Walter Reed Repairs

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday that the military has formed a committee to oversee improvements to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The co-chairman of the independent review group, Togo West, details the responsibilities of the new committee.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    It was a series of Washington Post reports in February that led to a public outcry over the state of outpatient care for injured troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for an independent review group to investigate conditions at the Army facility and at the naval medical center in Bethesda, Maryland.

    ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense: We need to know the scope of this problem.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    It was one of at least six panels or commissions to investigate the matter, also the subject of numerous congressional hearings. 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, resigned.

    Today, the Defense Department's independent review group, headed by two former secretaries of the Army, delivered its findings to Secretary Gates and held a news conference. Jack Marsh, former secretary of the Army under President Reagan, said the problems were faced almost exclusively by outpatients.

  • JACK MARSH, Independent Review Group:

    That is a very substantial population. The population of that group today at Walter Reed is probably around 640, 650 outpatients who are necessary that they stay in the area in order to obtain the medical attention. There, it was breaking down, and broke down very, very severely. And this is an area that we want to correct it. We feel it's being corrected.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The group found major health care shortcomings throughout the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, including in: quality of outpatient care; diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder; and in the system for evaluating soldiers' physical disabilities.

    The commission concluded the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was hit by a "perfect storm," including: an increase in patients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; inadequate staffing; poor facilities maintenance on the heels of the decision to close the facility by 2010; and outsourcing of services to private contractors who did not perform.

    Marsh and co-chair Togo West suggested that some of the needed changes would have to be enacted by Congress.