Thursday, July 26, 2007

Iraq War Veterans Need Better Care

From: Paul Rieckhoff
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

You probably remember the fiasco at Walter Reed hospital earlier this year. A series of Washington Post articles revealed the poor conditions, neglect and bureaucratic hurdles that faced outpatients at the Army facility. The public outcry that followed was enormous, and in response President Bush created the Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors. The bipartisan group was headed by former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and Senator Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran.

IAVA testified before the Commission, and both Todd Bowers, IAVA Director of Government Affairs, and Patrick Campbell, IAVA Legislative Director, were on site yesterday when the Commission issued its draft final report.

The Commission's findings should serve as a wake-up call for all Americans. Last week the Secretary of the VA resigned. This week a group of disabled veterans is suing the VA for failing to provide them with adequate care. Our veterans' healthcare system is facing tremendous challenges at every level and the Department of Defense and the VA are not ready to respond.

Now we're calling on the President and Congress to ensure that these recommendations are enacted quickly. Click here to read the Associated Press article about the report on, featuring IAVA. The Commission's recommendations focused on six key areas:

1. The creation of plans to provide the right care and support at the right time in the right place.
2. Completely restructure the disability and compensation systems.
3. Aggressively prevent and treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
4. Significantly strengthen support for military families.
5. Rapidly transfer patient information between DoD and VA.
6. Strongly support Walter Reed until its closing in 2011.

The Commission deserves to be commended for their hard work and dedication. But too often we see reports like this get brief attention in the media and then get pushed aside to collect dust on the shelf. Hopefully, the media will not bury the Commission's findings in the back pages of our nation's newspapers, beneath the latest news of Lindsay Lohan's DUI.
Now, more than ever, there needs to be a clear focus on veterans' care in America. The public outrage following the Walter Reed scandal shined light on the many problems facing wounded troops and veterans. Yesterday, the Dole-Shalala Commission offered their recommendations to resolve these issues. Whether President Bush, the DoD, and the VA can effectively implement these recommendations, however, remains to be seen.

With your support, IAVA is going to put pressure on the President and on Congress to ensure that these recommendations are implemented. And we'll need your help. Keep an eye on your inbox and for updates.

Thank you for standing with us.