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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

From the White House with Love: Cannon Fodder?

Cannon fodder: military personnel who are treated as expendable. The Washington Post and Salon Magazine have been reporting the horrid conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 8 miles from Capitol Hill and the White House where our decision-makers made the decision to send people off to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is difficult to sift through the mounting sand dunes of evidence about mice droppings and mold to get to the real issue: outpatient care and disability status of those wounded in the battlefield. Apparently all of the rhetoric about supporting our troops falls apart when it comes to supporting folks with long-term care issues. Wounded and disabled troops of these wars cite a conflict of interest: medical care is delivered and disability determinations are made by the Pentagon. Our soldiers go to war without adequate armor and protection, they are redeployed without adequate rest between assignments, they suffer mental and physical trauma and then we can’t figure out if they are disabled and need care? Universal Health Blogger, N=1, reports that Walter Red Medical Center is geared to handle acute care patients and the system breaks down when in comes to handling complex issues like Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Soldiers report that they languish without care while awaiting determination of their status. Some folks have charged that it’s a money issue. Money spent taking care of the disabled means less money for bombs and bullets. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley testified that Pentagon budget officials have required military medical services to cut costs by hundreds of millions of dollars. He testified that $142 million is scheduled to be cut in 2008. The excuse that outpatient care hasn’t been able to keep pace with stellar improvements in inpatient medical care just doesn’t wash with me. Civilians have access to a federally funded system of regional rehabilitation centers after a spinal cord injury. Some have accepted work-related disabilities, somehow manage to receive benefits and at least adequate care most of the time. Surely our returning soldiers, who we could regard as employees of the Department of Defense, deserve the same care.

At least Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is holding upper brass accountable. The Department of Defense should be able to defend its own most vulnerable members, the wounded and disabled.

Thank you, MichaelMeiser, for use of your photo.

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