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Bush Names Leaders of Walter Reed Commission


U.S. President George Bush has named the heads of a bipartisan commission that will investigate the quality of health care for America's military veterans. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

The president is reacting to a scandal uncovered by the Washington Post newspaper, which found recuperating soldiers living in run-down buildings infested with mice, mold, and cockroaches.

Veterans and family members testified to Congress about what they say has been callous treatment and bureaucratic delays in scheduling appointments and disability benefits at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington.

In a speech to the nation's largest veterans' group, the American Legion, President Bush said America has a moral obligation to provide the best possible care for those injured in combat.

"My decisions have put our kids in harms way," he said. "And I am concerned about the fact that when they come back they do not get the full treatment they deserve."

The president says doctors, nurses, and therapists at Walter Reed work day and night to help the wounded.

"Yet some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve. It is unacceptable to me. It is unacceptable to you. It is unacceptable to our country. And it is not going to continue," he added.

The president announced a nine-member commission to review the care of wounded soldiers from the battlefield through their return to civilian life.

The bipartisan panel will be co-chaired by former Senator Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. Both will meet with Mr. Bush at the White House Wednesday. The other members of the commission will be announced in the coming days.

The general who ran Walter Reed Hospital and the secretary of the army have both resigned over the scandal, which is especially embarrassing for the president as he regularly visits wounded troops at the facility.

While his overall approval ratings have fallen over the war in Iraq, the president has generally retained the support of military veterans. He told the American Legion the war in Iraq is part of a broader struggle against extremists who want to attack the United States.

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