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Dealing With Problems At Walter Reed Hospital

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush ordered a comprehensive review Friday of conditions at the nation's military and veteran hospitals in the wake of a scandal surrounding care for wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The White House said the president would name a bipartisan commission to assess whether the problems at Walter Reed existed at other facilities.

The action came after The Washington Post documented squalid living conditions for some outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed and bureaucratic problems that prevented many troops from getting adequate care.

Bush devoted his weekly radio address _ to be broadcast on Saturday _ to the problems of veterans' care, and the White House took the unusual step of releasing excerpts in advance. A full text also was to be released later Friday. The administration's response came amid growing outrage about the poor treatment of some veterans _ and the prospect that it could backfire on the White House.

``One of my most solemn experiences as president is visiting men and women recovering from wounds they suffered in defense of country,'' Bush said his prepared address. ``Spending time with these wounded warriors is also inspiring because so many of them bring the same courage they showed on the battlefield to their battle for recovery.''

A day earlier, the Pentagon announced the firing of Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the commander of Walter Reed. In a brief announcement, the Army said service leaders had ``lost trust and confidence'' in Weightman's leadership abilities ``to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care.'' It said the decision to fire him was made by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey.

Bush, in his radio address, said he had asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make a firsthand assessment of conditions at Walter Reed. ``He confirmed to me there are real problems at Walter Reed and he has taken action to hold people accountable, including relieving the general in charge of the facility.

``As we work to improve conditions at Walter Reed, we are also taking steps to find out whether similar problems have occurred at other military and veteran hospitals,'' the president said.

``We will use the commission's recommendations as part of our ongoing effort to improve our service to our nation's veterans,'' Bush said.

The commission to be named by Bush is separate from a review panel appointed by Gates to investigate outpatient care at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The presidential panel will look at all of the nation's military and veteran facilities, according to White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino.
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