If True, This Is Outrageous:

From Army Times, via Memeorandum:

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Army is showing itself to be colossally inept at managing it’s public perception, but – simply put – to clamp down on what can only be considered an expose is wrong, counterproductive, bound to fail, and damaging to the well-being of the troops – whose conditions will be improved and chain of command held accountable when transparency is held as the highest value.

If this is a matter of ensuring that the chain of command isn’t blindsided, it’s worse. Because of the chain of command isn’t directly aware of the conditions in the facilities they control or use, they should be retired. Immediately.

21 thoughts on “If True, This Is Outrageous:”

  1. I hate to tell you this, but DVA is NOT the Army… They are a separate Cabinet-level Department of the US Government.

    Yes, heads should roll for the egregious conduct of DVA in caring for our nation’s finest, who gave far more than their fair share in helping to defend our way of life. And I am hoping that vindictive behavior against suspected whistle-blowers (or worse, their proxies) is a criminal offense that can land some self-centered bureaucrats in jail.

    Just my $.02
    DaveK

  2. Walter Reed is still an active Army medical center, not a part of the DVA.

    I agree with Armed Liberal if these soldiers had addressed their grievances to their chain of command and were simply “blown off.”

    However, I would be quite peeved at these soldiers if I were their commander and they went to the media first, without giving me a chance to address their grievances or that they didn’t like the hard facts surrounding their problem.

    I should also point out that Walter Reed is a not-for-profit medical center Facility improvement failures aren’t because the center didn’t want to dip into its “bottom line.” Facility improvements are made from the money that congress allocates to the Army to make improvements to Walter Reed. If there wasn’t enough money, no improvement.

    I am reading where Walter Reed is making the improvments. Wonder what Peter got robbed to pay this Paul?

    Just more to consider.

  3. archomatic –

    I disagree; if the chain of command knew about the issues and had some plan in place to resolve them, the press coverage shouldn’t have been a problem … “yes, we knew about it, there’s budget in this cycle and next to deal with it, etc.”

    And if they didn’t know about it, they should be fired. Period.

    A.L.

  4. By no means assume that Army Times is a “fair and balanced” news outlet. It used to be, but under Tom Donnelly’s hand (no longer there) it turned into a muck raking, sensationalistic tabloid about 20 years ago.

    This isn’t to say that all is roses at WRAMC. A Medical Hold Unit is basically a parking unit for soldiers who are imminently returning to full duty. In my Army career, those kind of facilities – short term residents – were almost always below the standard of the rest. Anyone who has passed though a “turtle farm” knows what I mean.

    Note that the Times even manages to complain that the troops concerned will be moved shortly into a building that was renovated only last year.

    A.L., there is less here than meets the eye.

  5. A.L. – in the related reading, apparently the Army didn’t previously know, it found out, and it was already taking steps as of last Friday. The part about not talking to the media is, so far as I know, SOP – the media is supposed to talk to the PAO, not go sniffing around for rumors to (mis?)report as fact, and no matter where you are (unless you’re the commander?), you’re supposed to direct reporters to the PAO rather than talk to them directly.

    Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media. …. The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

    This suggests that there’s something else going on. I mean, ‘all… platoon sergeants’ moved to other positions and the first sergeant relieved of duty? ALL platoon sergeants? That’s a wide-ranging problem. I would dearly love to have a reporter actually look into THAT.

    They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

    This, however, reads like a reporter whining: “They’re getting better quarters, but now I have to follow the rules to get my stories!” There’s no doubt the reporters have been told, repeatedly, the proper procedure – and while not -no- doubt, I have very little doubt that the reporters don’t really CARE about proper procedure (which has been in place for years), and better-than-even odds would insist that it’s a coverup/clampdown simply because a procedure exists.

    As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes.

    This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Perhaps it would make more sense if the text of the request was reprinted?

    The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

    Sounds like they’re trying (ineptly, as usual) to avoid talking-heads-who-don’t-pay-attention-to-detail using the opportunity to ignore that the Army is (starting to) fix things while taking every chance to point out the problems.

    (And yes, for the resident anti-military or anti-war or whatever types, I am being generous in my interpretations to the military, even though it’s the bureaucracy part that’s under seige here, because I even trust the bureaucracy more than I trust the papers – Army Times isn’t put out by the Army, after all, it merely focuses on the Army. I’m still asking questions, if you read carefully – questions that would, in my opinion, have made the story better journalism, more factual and better investigative reporting, and relied less on stringing together two or more barely overlapping subjects as if they were part and parcel of each other)

  6. Here is a “Salon article”:http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/02/27/kiley/ printed yesterday… can’t asses the validity of the statement, but I thought I’d let someone else have a shot at it…

    Feb. 27, 2007 |…
    At a meeting last Dec. 20, a group of veterans advocates informed Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, former commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and now the Army surgeon general, that soldiers returning from Iraq were routinely struggling for outpatient treatment and getting tangled in the military’s byzantine disability compensation system — and that their families were suffering along with them.

    “We are here to tell you that our soldiers and our veterans, and some of their families, are falling through the cracks,” Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, told Kiley at a meeting of the Department of Defense Health Board Task Force on Mental Health. Kiley co-chairs the panel, which was created by Congress to probe military mental-healthcare capabilities. “Hundreds and potentially thousands of soldiers are facing barriers to mental healthcare,” said Robinson, “and are facing improper discharges” because of the Army’s complex discharge and compensation system.

    Robinson also warned Kiley, who ran Walter Reed from 2002 through 2004 and still has responsibility for it as Army surgeon general, that the scandalous situation threatened to become a media firestorm. “If we identify something,” said Robinson, “we would much rather bring it to the chain of command than see it reported in [CBS’] ’60 Minutes.'”…

    Georg-Andreas Pogany, who is a retired Army sgt. 1st class, gave Kiley a similarly stern admonition at the December meeting. Pogany advised Kiley that for outpatient mental-healthcare treatment, there were “barriers to treatment on the ground, in the companies, at the battalion level, and in the barracks.” Pogany said he had been frustrated while trying to help soldiers extract proper treatment compensation from the Army for their disabilities, a bureaucratic process that can take months or years. “After careful and thorough review of each soldier’s medical and military service record, I am faced with the sobering reality of the enormous gaps in the systems of services and safeguards to prevent service members from falling through the cracks.”

    Note: Salon also did a series of articles last year on poor conditions for returning vets, including the practice of claiming trauma cases came from conditions prior to the Iraq engagement. Google them for interesting reading.

  7. Walter Reed was BRAC’d for closure in less than 3 years. The facility is crappy by modern standards, crowded and hard to work in.

    Not saying it justifies *any* poor care of soldiers, but somehow this is a point I’m not hearing made on the issue. DOD knows the place is a dump. It’s needed replacing for some time. Local politicos put lots of pressure on Congress every time the services say so, but this time it got selected anyway.

  8. Thanks for mentioning this.

    I make note of your consistency – previously, you (was it Katzman?) tagged the military affairs guy for the Post, as an idiot for recommending that they couldn’t speak out, regarding their thoughts about staying in Iraq.

    “I appreciate the consistency”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009412.php

    The same principle – veterans who are wounded having the ability to speak about their lives – is at issue here.

    Freedom of speech applies to soldiers, for the most part, as well as citizens. They’ve fought to earn that freedom, more than most civilians.

    “To quote Glen Wishard”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009412.php#c8

    _I think Blackfive delivered only half the kicks that Arkin deserves for this, because the First Amendment of the Constitution doesn’t begin to cover the sacred, centuries-old right of the soldier to gripe.

    Soldiers are bound by law and duty to obey orders they don’t want to obey, and fight wars they may not agree with or understand, and to lay down their lives for ungrateful cretins like William Arkin. In exchange for this they have a right to disapprove of the American people, second lieutenants, bad food, poor supplies, the weather, the atomic weight of cobalt, and the entire metaphysical structure of time and space_

    Sounds good to me – for shame on the silencing of our soldiers!

  9. Maybe Glen and others who kicked enthusiastically kicked Arkin, will as enthusiastically kick the stupid administrative guys who silence our wounded soldiers. In this case, the kicking is even more justified, since the ability to gripe about a soldier’s actual BAD TREATMENT, is pretty important.

    One can hope…

  10. Arkin was criticized for referring to U.S. soldiers as mercenaries and (as clearly stated in the post from A.L. that you link to) for suggesting that the troops

    …should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President’s handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.

    Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.

    I’m not quite sure why you equate Arkin’s unhinged screed against the U.S. military and the troops with this story. Perhaps you could clarify the devastating point you think you made by bringing up what that turd Arkin said?

    And regarding the Glen Wishard comment you cite, I see why you truncated it where you did. The rest of the comment:

    There is even ritualized griping in the military, a sort of art form, often featuring a guy named Jody who is back at home screwing your sister, your girlfriend, and your mother.

    Arkin ought to recognize Jody. He is Jody, the ungrateful, spoiled rotten civilian who has been protected and cared for his entire life. He sits at home lecturing and pontificating while better men hump heavy loads through the worst places on earth, and he feels entitled to look down on them for this service. He congratulates himself on being smarter than they are, and credits himself with a superior moral character on top of that.

    Thank you for being so smart and having the superior moral character which allows you to drop by to lecture and pontificate every so often, hypocrisyrules.

  11. Hypocrisyrules, there is no logical link between the two situations, and for that matter, you have not tied the alleged policy at Walter Reed to “administration” officials as anyone who has been in the service immediately recognizes what is being described as the usual reaction of a midlevel command to being embarrassed by an inspection failure.

  12. So what course of action do you suggest Hypocrisy?

    Moralizing as usual, or action?

    My suggestion would be to close Walter Reed as quickly as possible and move the soldiers to better facilities. The facilities are the heart of the problem and the fix is better facilities.

    If needed, put the soldiers in local area hospitals.

    I’m sure Congress could extend themselves to allocate this money. Perhaps even give up some pork like a bridge to nowhere to pay for it.

    The problem stems from inaction, the solution requires action.

  13. I grew up next to Fort Meade and the (lack of) quality of care and facilities at Walter Reed is nothing new. Active and retired personnel were cracking jokes about it back in the eighties. Just more partisan babbling as usual.

  14. Ah, good to see what separates the ideologically rigid, from the principled – good demonstration!

    Shad –

    _Arkin was criticized for referring to U.S. soldiers as mercenaries and (as clearly stated in the post from A.L. that you link to) for suggesting that the troops_

    that was ONE of the things Arkin was criticized for- if you follow the Blackfive link, there is also this as the FIRST POINT:

    _Let’s start your education with the US Constitution, say maybe those bits after the main document. The first one has a little thing about freedom of speech and yes Mr. Arkin it even applies to soldiers._

    So what I’m suggesting, is that this also applies HERE. Whatever administrative idiot that is saying the troops AREN’T ALLOWED to talk about THEIR MEDICAL TREATMENT is just that, an idiot. And A.L. deserves props for calling it out as OUTRAGEOUS.

    Shad – do you agree?

    _And regarding the Glen Wishard comment you cite, I see why you truncated it where you did. The rest of the comment:_

    Yeah? So? He makes a separate point, not relevant to the freedom of speech issue.

    Robin Roberts –

    _Hypocrisyrules, there is no logical link between the two situations,_

    Really? It’s pretty obvious. Tell you what, have someone read the post, read A.L.’s previous, read Blackfive’s, read Arkin’s. I’m pretty sure one of the threads they share is the freedom of soldiers to speak – a little thing called the 1st amendment. Look it up.

    _have not tied the alleged policy at Walter Reed to “administration” officials_

    You are reading more into what I said. I agree – could be some midlevel idiot, could be somebody in the Bush administration – who knows? WHOEVER it is, deserves to be kicked in the a&&.

    DO YOU AGREE?

    Jim Rockford,

    _My suggestion would be to close Walter Reed as quickly as possible and move the soldiers to better facilities. The facilities are the heart of the problem and the fix is better facilities._

    _If needed, put the soldiers in local area hospitals._

    _I’m sure Congress could extend themselves to allocate this money. Perhaps even give up some pork like a bridge to nowhere to pay for it._

    _The problem stems from inaction, the solution requires action._

    Couldn’t agree more – great thoughts. I simply also agree with A.L. that the guys who came up with the “soldiers aren’t allowed to talk” about their medical treaments, deserves a kick in the pants.

    Right?

  15. “If there wasn’t enough money, no improvement”…there’s a lot more to management than spending money. Almost always, applying a little awareness and intelligence will improve a situation, regardless of any budgetary constraints that may be in place.

    Some of the worst managers I have ever known spent most of their time whining about lack of budget rather than getting anything done. The better ones work on using what they have properly, while lobbying for more if it is needed.

  16. For the record, as of today, the commanding general at WRAMC is toast. (Rooters). Not clear where the gag orders came from, or what’s the fate of the command chain between the CO and the NCOs.

  17. Hypocrisyrules, I was addressing the specific WOC post that you directly linked to — ostensibly in support of your point. Your link was to the post where A.L. said (inter alia) Over at Blackfive, Matt and Uncle Jimbo kind of have their way with Mr. Arkin, and I’ll leave the response to them. Next time, if you’re basing your argument on something that was said over at Blackfive, I’d recommend you link to Blackfive, rather than to a post by A.L. which does not say what you pretend it says and which explicitly states that it’s not commenting on the points that Blackfive made.

    That’s just a recommendation though — don’t let me or anyone else interrupt the righteous outburst sparked by your recent conversion to the belief that everyone should be allowed to voice their opinions. It’s a welcome change from your previous defense (and use) of the chickenhawk argument to try to deter people from speaking. I also remember when you used to pop up just to complain about people exercising their freedom of speech on topics you thought they shouldn’t be addressing.

    Personally, I think the right to free speech is great. I’m glad to see that you now also adopt that position.

  18. Shad,

    If you are equating me complaining about giving out the phone number of a sargeant in Iraq, as some sort of stance against free speech…

    Good luck with that.

    Also, nice argumentation tactic. Love the argument, hate the arguer? Don’t actually address my points, but pick and choose previous comments I’ve made. Just to let you know, that doesn’t address the ACTUAL ISSUE in the comment I’ve made. It’s a dishonest debating tactic – except when I use it, then its’ right on!!

    I keed – sorta.

    Still, you willing to condemn the silencing of soldiers, when talking about their medical treatment? It sounds like you are, from what I can gather – I don’t think we are far apart on the point I was making in the comment.

    Regarding your dredging up old quotes –

    Re: chickenhawk – as I’ve said, it’s a gray area. Yeah, I take some potshots at A.L. sometimes – it’s all good, he can handle it. And my position evolved, as your next link, and the comments in them, showed.

    Re the extended chickenhawk post, I stand behind the thoughtful consideration I was attempting, in that comment – it’s not all “right”, as the characterization of “glass houses” I have found a couple of examples of, but not much, so had to retract.

    _Personally, I think the right to free speech is great. I’m glad to see that you now also adopt that position._

    Glad we agree! On that one point, at least, though on other thinbgs we can continue to take lob shuttlecocks at each other…

  19. To the writer of #4. You’re a jackass! The only reference you should be making to a turtle is the tiny turtle head our creator jokingly gave you as a reproductive tool. Interesting how when writing about you the word TOOL appeared. Yes Forest I just called you a tool.
    I am an injured soldier, stationed at an MTF in New Jersey. For anyone to attack the injured soldiers living through this crap at the MTFs is b.s. Come on up and see the conditions before you pass judgement. Our MTF is pathetic. We have 2 doctors for over 100 troops. Our hospital, Walson, has been condemed for years due to mold, mice and asbestos. Yes, the treatment facility we go to is in worse shape then a third world facility. This is not whining, it’s a fact, come on up and visit, please. Soldiers medical records are missing, lost and mishandled constantly. The chain of command has been notified and nothing has been done to fix the problem. The system is broken, understaffed and mismanaged. Hopefully things will get corrected now that someone has enlightened the voting public. It’s just a shame that it will take an influence from outside the military for the war veterans to be treated properly by the military. The Throw Away Soldier War is official.
    We are forced to work a job each day, participate in company physical training, mandatory weigh ins, monthly drug testing, random at large room searches and when time is available perhaps be treated for injuries and or an illness. Yeah, a slow process. Emphasis on the Army standards of a soldier not a wounded / injured patient. Gotta justify! Well enough of this soapbox, my year of medhold has been fabulous. Hopefully when I finally get done I can use the under rating % from the Army and my surgical scars combined with a quarter to buy a cup of coffee.

  20. Grumpy; what places like this need is more people like you commenting on your experiences. It is amazing how some people can exist inside their own little bubbles and pretend everythings just peachy because commander codpiece says it is. Get your buddies online and flood the internets with your stories, brother (or sister!). We’re listening.

    TCG

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