Monday, February 19, 2007

The Hotel Aftermath - Coming Home from Iraq

The wounded and brain-bruised American veterans are often trotted out for symbolic hoistings, though the daily struggles of those who braved battle and combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are often now engaging a paperwork battle and administrative policy minefield. It's the Surreal World for both vets and their families.

Both yesterday and today, the Washington Post has an in-depth series on the challenges faced by vets at Walter Reed. Reporters didn't go through the PR offices for information. They researched privately, without the knowledge of those in charge of the facilities.

What emerges, first in this report and also in this one, are details of the struggle to survive the return to America. Some information defies logic - how can a solider be deemed unworthy of disability pay due to "pre-existing conditions" if those conditions did not prevent them from serving?

For all the talk about supporting the military, the experiences of veterans are historically often sideline issues, seldom considered by warhawks and poorly funded by government leaders.

A sample from today's article:

Bomb blasts are the most common cause of injury in Iraq, and nearly 60 percent of the blast victims also suffer from traumatic brain injury, according to Walter Reed's studies, which explains why some at Mologne House wander the hallways trying to remember their room numbers.

Some soldiers and Marines have been here for 18 months or longer. Doctor's appointments and evaluations are routinely dragged out and difficult to get. A board of physicians must review hundreds of pages of medical records to determine whether a soldier is fit to return to duty. If not, the Physical Evaluation Board must decide whether to assign a rating for disability compensation. For many, this is the start of a new and bitter battle."


Perks and stardom do not come to every amputee. Sgt. David Thomas, a gunner with the Tennessee National Guard, spent his first three months at Walter Reed with no decent clothes; medics in Samarra had cut off his uniform. Heavily drugged, missing one leg and suffering from traumatic brain injury, David, 42, was finally told by a physical therapist to go to the Red Cross office, where he was given a T-shirt and sweat pants. He was awarded a Purple Heart but had no underwear.

David tangled with Walter Reed's image machine when he wanted to attend a ceremony for a fellow amputee, a Mexican national who was being granted U.S. citizenship by President Bush. A case worker quizzed him about what he would wear. It was summer, so David said shorts. The case manager said the media would be there and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row."

Both articles (here and here, with a response from Walter Reed here) deserve your attention and consideration in the current debate about how we proceed with an open-ended war.


  1. I had a nephew recently in Walter Reed. The place looks about the same as when Tom Cruise portrayed his shoddy care after Viet Nam in '4th of July'. Rat infested nastiness.. where the 'buddy' system between soldiers alerts the nurses as to who may have died during the day or night. That's how thinly staffed the place is.
    I sure hope Halliburton & Kellogg are enjoying their ill-gotten gain while these soldiers are literally still biting-the-bullet.

  2. Anonymous11:44 AM

    If I recall correctly, there was an outcry early on in the War about the present administration cutting VA funding. That was 5 years ago. This situation is so obscene that it goes beyond disloyalty to the troops to outright cruelty.