February 28, 2008 in Nation/World

GAO cites improvements in care at Walter Reed

Washington Post The Spokesman-Review

WASHINGTON – The Army has significantly improved its support for service members undergoing medical treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals, but it still faces shortages of staff and other gaps, GAO officials told a congressional committee Wednesday.

“Challenges remain, but the trend is in the right direction,” John Pendleton, acting director of health care for the Governmental Accountability Office, told a House subcommittee on oversight and governmental reform.

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., chairman of the subcommittee, credited the Army with improving military health care in the year since a scandal developed over reports in the Washington Post of poor treatment for wounded service members at Walter Reed.

The GAO reported in September that the Army faced serious shortages in staffing new warrior transition units that have been created to help wounded soldiers navigate the medical bureaucracy. Since then, the Army has increased the number of staff in key positions by almost 75 percent, the GAO said, but more than one-third of the units are still short-staffed.

Army Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, who took command of Walter Reed after the scandal a year ago and now serves as the Army surgeon general, credited a “total transformation the Army is undergoing in the way we care for soldiers and families” for the improvements.

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