- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Your editorial cartoon of Aug. 7 tastelessly combines inaccuracy and ignorance in presenting a U.S. Army soldier with a leg having been chewed off by a rat at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Your characterization of Army medical care is off-target and out of touch with what the Army is doing for the nation’s wounded and ill warriors.

From the time administrative and organizational problems in Walter Reed’s outpatient support system were brought to light in February 2007, the Army has transformed those administrative and organizational conditions there and throughout the Army.

Had it done its own research before attacking Army medical care, The Times would know that besides fixing those conditions, the Army has reformed its entire outpatient care delivery system.

The quality of Army health care was never in question. The flaws we faced more than a year ago were about how to transition warriors from acute care to rehabilitation in the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs system or community-based health care systems.

At the heart of the Army’s reform is the Warrior Transition Unit, an organizational structure that enfolds the recovering warrior and his or her family in tailored health care, counseling and leadership in an environment that mirrors the soldier’s former unit. In the past year, we have established 35 WTUs and nine community-based health care organizations worldwide.

The implication in the cartoon is that combat-wounded soldiers are not getting prompt or quality care, and that is flat-out wrong. Of the 12,755 soldiers currently assigned to WTUs, 1,503 were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are getting the best care available anywhere and waiting in line for no one. (Injured and ill soldiers in WTUs who were not wounded in combat were placed there by commanders to take advantage of the benefits the WTU system provides for its patients.)

The Army also is developing a long-term partnership with the VA to help facilitate the return of soldiers to duty or to productive and independent private lives. This partnership includes a pilot program with the VA to streamline the process of getting soldiers any required disability ratings for veterans health care and benefits as well as determining fitness for continued service in the Army.

Though we are not fully where we want to be, the Army has done in 12 months what would have taken years to accomplish if we were facing this issue a decade ago. That took dedicated leadership, tenacious bureaucracy-busting and innovative thinking.

Most of all, it meant we had to look at health care through the eyes of the soldier and the soldier’s family.

The Army did its homework in the past year and effectively turned around its medical care system. Perhaps The Times should do its own homework before baselessly attacking an Army program that is successfully helping soldiers and their families.



Surgeon General

U.S. Army


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