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Bush Calls for Investigation of US Veterans' Health Care

U.S. President George Bush wants a bipartisan commission to investigate the quality of health care for America's military veterans following a series of newspaper stories describing poor conditions at a Washington-area hospital. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says he was deeply troubled by reports of conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington.

"Some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve," he said. "This is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to our country, and it's not going to continue."

The scandal over conditions at Walter Reed has already claimed the general in charge of the facility, who was removed Thursday after Pentagon officials said they had lost confidence in his ability to address outpatient care.

An investigation by The Washington Post published last month reported that recuperating soldiers were living in a run-down building, infested with mice, mold and cockroaches.

That is especially embarrassing for the president, as he regularly visits Walter Reed to meet with those injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So even though the Defense Department has since appointed a group of experts to look into veterans' health care, the president wants his own bipartisan commission to ensure that recovering soldiers are treated with dignity and respect.

He said, "This review will examine their treatment from the time they leave the battlefield through their return to civilian life as veterans, so we can ensure that we are meeting their physical and mental health needs."

The president says he will announce the members of the commission and their deadline for reporting back to him in the coming days.

He made those comments in his weekly radio address, which is regularly broadcast Saturday morning, but which was released early by the White House.

Mr. Bush said the country has a moral obligation to provide service men and women with the best possible care and treatment.