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Tierney wants probe expanded to more Army medical facilities

PEABODY – Accusing the Army of trying to cover up deplorable conditions and shoddy treatment of wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, U.S. Rep. John F. Tierney informed Pentagon brass Thursday that he intends to investigate not only that military facility but others as well.Tierney, a Salem Democrat and chairman of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, has been conducting a hearing on the Walter Reed conditions, prompted by a series of Washington Post articles exposing the problems. Congressional colleagues Henry A. Waxman Thomas Davis and Christopher Shays joined Tierney Thursday in drafting a letter to Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.The letter essentially expands the hearing authority’s request for information so that it includes information for all U.S. Army health facilities, and for any Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities that might be involved in the treatment, housing, or administrative processing of active-duty wounded soldiers.The congressmen are seeking copies of all care quality assurance procedures, reports, surveys, and studies prepared by the Department of Defense in conjunction with these medical services, along with a list of all complaints filed by patients. They gave the Pentagon until March 23 to fulfill the request.The field hearing, which opened Monday and is entitled “Is This Any Way To Treat Our Troops? The Care and Condition of Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed,” is being held on the grounds of the hospital.According to Tierney, initial testimony at the hearing exposed substandard living conditions and unacceptable treatment of wounded soldiers. “These issues may represent systemic problems across all military health facilities,” he said, explaining the impetus to request more information from the Pentagon. “Where does the buck stop? There appears to be a pattern developing here that we’ve seen before ? first deny, then try to cover-up, then designate a fall guy. In this case, I have concerns that the Army is literally trying to whitewash over the problems.”The congressman said the hearing so far has uncovered bureaucratic blunders, substandard living conditions and staffing shortages, all contributing to the deteriorating quality of care that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving in what appears to be a system-wide breakdown at the esteemed hospital.”Walter Reed has long been perceived as the model in taking care of our nation’s soldiers when they returned home from battle and received acute care,” Tierney said. However, recent news reports revealed appalling conditions in some medical buildings, particular No. 18, where wounded soldiers were recuperating amid rats and cockroaches, on dirty, soiled mattresses, with holes in the ceilings, and with black mold on the walls.”Totally unacceptable,” he said. ” I think everyone can agree that this is flat-out wrong. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

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