In the wake of the scandal surrounding the conditions endured by some Veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced two pieces of legislation last week to create a more suitable level of care for wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama introduced, S. 713, the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, legislation written to "ensure dignity in care for members of the Armed Forces recovering from injuries," which has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee for review.
Obama's legislation would fix conditions at outpatient VA residence facilities by setting higher standards -- such as stipulations that recovering soldiers' rooms will be as good or better as the best standard rooms for active-duty troops -- and increasing administration accountability. The bill also provides for expedited repair of maintenance problems in the facilities and, as Obama put it last week, "zero tolerance for pest infestations."
The bill would also mandate that emergency medical personnel and crisis counselors be available to recovering troops 24 hours a day.
"The stories out of Walter Reed last week did shock my conscience because, like many Senators, I have made the half-hour trek from the Capitol to visit Walter Reed. And I saw what the Army wanted the world to see: a shining world-class facility where the wounded can heal with state-of-the-art care," said Obama. "I never saw mold growing on the walls, or broken elevators, or the lack of adequate support for soldiers and their families. Walter Reed was supposed to be the flagship of military health care. Instead it has become an emblem of much that is wrong with the system, and a harbinger of more severe problems that may be hiding at other military hospitals and facilities that are not in the spotlight."
In addition to the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, Obama also stepped up to the plate and introduced S.692, a bill that would modify federal law to establish a "Hospital Quality Report Card Initiative to report on health care quality in Veterans Affairs hospitals."
That legislation would require that the Veterans Administration report twice a year on the quality of health care at VA hospitals including an ongoing assessment of "health care effectiveness, safety, timeliness, efficiency, patient-centeredness and equity."
By Nicole Belle — March 5, 2007