A bipartisan nine-member presidential commission charged with making recommendations to improve military and veterans’ health care on Wednesday submitted a 29-page report urging “fundamental changes,” the Washington Post reports (Vogel, Washington Post, 7/26).
President Bush in March named former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), a disabled veteran of World War II, and University of Miami President and former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala as co-chairs of the commission. Bush formed the group after the Washington Post published a two-part series that examined problems with the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the process by which injured veterans seek disability compensation (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/2).
In its report, the panel wrote, “We don’t recommend merely patching the system, as has been done in the past” (Curl, Washington Times, 7/26). The report — titled “Serve, Support, Simplify” — offers six broad recommendations broken into 35 specific “action steps,” six of which would require congressional action. According to Shalala, the panel’s six broad recommendations will serve as a “simplified path to recovery” (Washington Post, 7/26).
The panel’s six steps are as follows:Immediately establish comprehensive recovery plans for seriously injured troops and assign each a “recovery coordinator”;
Completely overhaul the disability compensation system by assigning the Defense Department to assess a soldier’s “fitness” to continue serving and giving the Department of Veterans Affairs sole responsibility of making appropriate disability evaluations and payments in order to avoid conflicting assessments;
Aggressively screen for and treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, while also working to prevent the stigma associated with those conditions;
Significantly improve the support provided to families by having Congress change the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow six months of leave for family members of injured soldiers;
Quickly relay patient information between DOD and VA by developing a “My eBenefits” Web site to provide service members and families access to their benefit and treatment records; and
Support Walter Reed by recruiting and retaining top-notch professionals through 2011, when the hospital is scheduled to close (Washington Post graphic, 7/26).According to the panel, complete implementation of the recommendations would cost $500 million initially and $1 billion annually for the foreseeable future.
Bush, who met with panel members on Wednesday, in a statement said that he instructed Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Jim Nicholson “to take [the recommendations] seriously, and to implement them, so that we can say with certainty that any soldier who has been hurt will get the best possible care and treatment that this government can offer” (Rutenberg/Cloud, New York Times, 7/26).
Dole said, “The ball’s in [the Bush administration's] court,” adding that he told the president the commission is “expecting somebody to follow up” (Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times, 7/26).
Bush commended the panel for taking “the perspective from the patient, as the patient had to work his way through the hospitals and bureaucracies. And they’ve come up with some very interesting and important suggestions” (Yen, AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/25). White House spokesperson Tony Snow said the president would weigh the suggestions carefully, adding, “I don’t think this is a two-page report where you just sort of rifle through it and say, ‘There we go.’”
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, “We cannot tolerate White House foot-dragging on yet another bipartisan commission’s findings,” adding that past inaction “must not be repeated when it comes to helping America’s veterans” (Washington Times, 7/26).
Several broadcast programs recently reported on the commission’s report, a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on benefits for veterans with psychological disorders and related issues. Summaries appear below.
ABC’s “World News”: The segment includes comments from Bush; Shalala; Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America; Dole; and a spouse of a wounded soldier (Woodruff, “World News,” ABC, 7/25). Video of the segment and expanded ABC News coverage are available online.
CBS’ “Evening News”: The segment includes comments from Bush; Sarah Wade of the Wounded Warrior Project; and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (Axelrod, “Evening News,” CBS, 7/25). Video of the segment and expanded CBS news coverage are available online. The program on Wednesday also reported on military wives who founded a private rehabilitation hospital for veterans (Martin, “Evening News,” CBS, 7/25). Video of the segment and expanded CBS news coverage are available online.
CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now”: The segment includes a discussion with CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre about the report (Zahn, “Paula Zahn Now,” CNN, 7/25). Wednesday’s program also included a report on veterans who are denied health care benefits (Feyerick, “Paula Zahn Now,” CNN, 7/25). In addition, the program included a discussion with Joshua Kors, a reporter for The Nation, and Georg-Andreas Pogany, an investigator for Veterans for America, about benefits for veterans with personality disorders (Zahn, “Paula Zahn Now,” CNN, 7/25). A transcript of the complete program is available online.
CNN’s “The Situation Room”: The segment includes comments from House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) (Bash, “The Situation Room,” CNN, 7/25). A transcript of the segment is available online.
MSNBC’s “Hardball”: The segment includes a discussion with Shalala about the report (Matthews, “Hardball,” MSNBC, 7/25). Video of the segment is available online.
NBC’s “Nightly News”: The segment includes comments from Shalala, Dole, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and a veteran who testified at the House hearing on Wednesday (Miklaszewski, “Nightly News,” NBC, 7/25). Video of the segment is available online.
NPR’s “All Things Considered”: The segment includes comments from Bush, Shalala, Dole and Murray (Greene, “All Things Considered,” NPR, 7/25). Audio of the segment and expanded NPR coverage are available online. The program on Wednesday also included a discussion with William Rollins, field services director for Paralyzed Veterans of America, about the report (Norris, “All Things Considered,” NPR, 7/25). Audio of the segment is available online. Wednesday’s program also included a report on the House hearing. The segment includes comments from Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense; Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) and a veteran who testified (Seabrook, “All Things Considered,” NPR, 7/25). Audio of the segment is available online.
NPR’s “Day to Day”: The segment includes a discussion with NPR correspondent David Greene about the report (Chadwick, “Day to Day,” NPR, 7/25). Audio of the segment is available online.
NPR’s “Morning Edition”: The segment includes a discussion with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest about medical care for veterans (Inskeep, “Morning Edition,” NPR, 7/25). Audio of the segment is available online. “Morning Edition” on Thursday included a discussion with Shalala about the report (Montagne, “Morning Edition,” NPR, 7/26). Audio of the segment is available online. Thursday’s program also included a report on veterans’ reaction to the commission’s report. The segment includes comments from veterans (del Barco, “Morning Edition,” NPR, 7/26). Audio of the segment is available online.
PBS’ “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”: The segment includes a discussion with Shalala and Dole (Woodruff, “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” PBS, 7/25). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online. Video will be available Thursday afternoon.
WBUR’s “Here & Now”: The segment includes a discussion with Todd Bowers, director of government affairs for IAVA (“Here & Now,” WBUR, 7/25). Audio of the segment is available online.
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.