Federal lawmakers for a second straight day grilled the Army’s top brass over the quality of outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and President Bush named former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) to co-chair a new presidential commission to help ensure other healthcare problems in the nation’s military and veterans hospitals are fixed.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, identified a lack of caseworkers and noncommissioned officers, and a schism between the Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department over disability classification as key issues that led to quality problems at the medical center. While those problems are fixable, the larger task, according to the senators and Army leaders, is to overhaul an overly bureaucratic system where the top administrators are ultimately held accountable even though they are seldom in the know.
On Friday, Bush outlined a plan for the commission, which he said would be charged with studying and then making recommendations on how to better transition the servicemen and women as they return from military deployment. In total, the president will announce nine members of the commission.
Appointed in 1993 by President Clinton, Shalala served as HHS secretary for eight years—the longest tenure in the department's history. She’s currently the president of the University of Miami. Dole, a decorated World War II veteran who received two Purple Hearts, held elected office for more than 35 years.