Congressional Quarterly confirms today that senior House conservatives, including the chairmen of the appropriations and oversight committees, knew about the neglect and deplorable conditions at Walter Reed years before they were exposed by the Washington Post.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), former chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said he stopped short of going public with the hospital’s problems “to avoid embarrassing the Army while it was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”:
“We got in Gen. Kiley’s face on a regular basis,” Young said, adding that he even contacted the commander of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda in the hopes of getting better care there for the patient with the aneurysm, though doctors at Walter Reed declined to transfer him. …
“We did not go public with these concerns, because we did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war,” Young said.
Young claims he regularly “got in Gen. Kiley’s face.” But Kiley never responded to Young’s complaints. Nevertheless, as ThinkProgress noted last week, Young was publicly praising Kiley during a congressional hearing as recently as January:
YOUNG: Well, Mr. Chairman, I want to join you in welcoming our guests and our witnesses today, having known especially Don Arthur and General Kiley very, very well over the years. I thought they’d get tired of seeing us in their hospitals. And we haven’t had as much opportunity to visit with the Air Force, General. But I know that these gentlemen are committed to providing our war heroes with the very, very best medical care that is possible.
Also, while Young claims he didn’t want to go public with the problems at Walter Reed, he was more than willing to use wounded veterans publicly as a political cudgel. Here is Young on the House floor on 11/18/05, speaking against Rep. John Murtha’s (D-PA) redeployment plan:
YOUNG: So tonight, Mr. Speaker, we need to send a strong message to our troops and to their families. For those families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, for those families who are dealing with a seriously wounded soldier or marine who might be at Walter Reed Hospital or at Bethesda Hospital or at Landsthul in Germany, we need to let them know that we are here to support them. (CR, p. H11009)