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Bush Pledges Help for Military Wounded


President Bush is pledging action to make sure wounded U.S. military personnel get the care and support they deserve. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports he says the government will implement a set of recommendations to reform the network of government services set up to help these injured warriors.

President Bush says his administration will implement the reforms put forward by a special commission set up to study problems facing injured servicemen and women.

He says he has already passed on orders to the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"And I have instructed Secretary [Robert] Gates and Secretary [Jim] Nicholson to look at every one of these recommendations and to take them seriously and to implement them."

The president spoke in a rather unusual setting. He had just finished a jog on the White House lawn with two soldiers who lost legs in combat and now run on artificial limbs. They stood by his side as he spoke of their courage and the need to help all America's wounded military personnel.

"Anytime we have somebody hurt, they deserve the best possible care and their family needs strong support," said President Bush.

But the commission found in all too many cases, those goals are not being met. While they found the quality of treatment to be good, they said the system is bogged down by bureaucracy, and unable to provide the support services needed by a new generation of patients and their families.

Former Senator Robert Dole, who was wounded in World War Two, was the commission co-chair. He told reporters the system is in desperate need of change.

"Wars change and people change and techniques change and injuries change, and we need to keep it [the military medical system] up to date," he said.

The commission's recommendations take into account the injuries and lifestyles of the young men and women now entering the military care system. They include the creation of innovative internet websites that will cut paperwork and enable patients to monitor their care in an interactive fashion.

The panel also recommends a greater emphasis on dealing with mental problems resulting from the stress of war, as well as the traumatic brain injuries from explosive devices that are showing up for the first time in large numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration, was the panel's other co-chair.

"We understand the generation that is the patients and the injured warriors from these wars that we are responding to," said Shalala. "Therefore, we have updated the way in which the health system as well as the benefits system ought to interact with them and the kind of support that they actually need."

The nine-member commission was formed in March following reports of poor conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Senator Dole called the reports - first carried by the Washington Post - a wake-up call.

The commission toured Walter Reed and many other facilities and met with patients across the country before drafting its recommendations. While most of their suggestions - such as creating new websites - can be implemented quickly and easily by the government, six will need legislative action.

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