Monday, February 19, 2007

We Found You Hiding, We Found You Lying

Courtesy of Mr. Blogenfreude comes this nearly rational bon mot from Jonah Goldberg:
I don't trust Dana Priest that much, and I am suspicious of some of possible motives behind the series, so with those caveats in mind, I still think the Post's series (See here and here ) on what some of our wounded troops go through is must-reading. Hospitals for vets returning from the front should be palaces and the last thing in the world any of them deserve are bureaucratic hassles. Though I should say that I've visited wounded troops and from my very limited experience they are surrounded by people who really do care.

Still, here's an idea for Fox News. Take Geraldo Rivera off the Anna Nicole beat and put him full time on this one. I'm not exactly a huge fan of Rivera's but he launched his career exposing the scandalous condition of mental hospitals if I recall, and he has just the right amount of preening self-righteousness (see Hurrican[sic] Katrina) to scare the bejeebers out of the relevant bureaucrats and politicians.

"Bejeebers"? Jonah, you can say "shit" like other grownups now.

See, even if we spot him a few points for attempting to behave like a human, Jonah's still a mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling blob. He does, however, have a point: Geraldo's insufferable. I'm suprised those Hurrican[see above] Katrina survivors Geraldo carried out of the wreckage didn't slap him, at least a little. That, friends, is every bit as important as Jonah's trust issues and specialized language-mangling. What's "must-reading"?
On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling."

Soldiers, family members, volunteers and caregivers who have tried to fix the system say each mishap seems trivial by itself, but the cumulative effect wears down the spirits of the wounded and can stall their recovery.

"It creates resentment and disenfranchisement," said Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker at Walter Reed. "These soldiers will withdraw and stay in their rooms. They will actively avoid the very treatment and services that are meant to be helpful."

Danny Soto, a national service officer for Disabled American Veterans who helps dozens of wounded service members each week at Walter Reed, said soldiers "get awesome medical care and their lives are being saved," but, "Then they get into the administrative part of it and they are like, 'You saved me for what?' The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect. This leads to anger."

There is, once again, no excuse for this bullshit. When you consider the costs of war, you take for fucking granted you will be caring for the injured decently. If you don't, you haven't calculated your probable costs correctly. Now, tack on some bigotry.
Family members who speak only Spanish have had to rely on Salvadoran housekeepers, a Cuban bus driver, the Panamanian bartender and a Mexican floor cleaner for help. Walter Reed maintains a list of bilingual staffers, but they are rarely called on, according to soldiers and families and Walter Reed staff members.

Evis Morales's severely wounded son was transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for surgery shortly after she arrived at Walter Reed. She had checked into her government-paid room on post, but she slept in the lobby of the Bethesda hospital for two weeks because no one told her there is a free shuttle between the two facilities. "They just let me off the bus and said 'Bye-bye,' " recalled Morales, a Puerto Rico resident.

Morales found help after she ran out of money, when she called a hotline number and a Spanish-speaking operator happened to answer.

"If they can have Spanish-speaking recruits to convince my son to go into the Army, why can't they have Spanish-speaking translators when he's injured?" Morales asked. "It's so confusing, so disorienting."

And how about some plain incompetence?
Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division's Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; "Lone Wolf" was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

"I thought, 'Shouldn't they contact me?' " he said. "I didn't understand the paperwork. I'd start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: 'I'm your case manager. Where have you been?'

As if that weren't bad enough, contempt for the injured is standard operating procedure.
Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, said in an interview last week that a major reason outpatients stay so long, a change from the days when injured soldiers were discharged as quickly as possible, is that the Army wants to be able to hang on to as many soldiers as it can, "because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution."

That emphasis is mine because I just can't stand it. That is so far beyond the bounds of decency I want to sit up and bark like a dog so I don't have to share a species with douchebags like this:
Part of the tension at Walter Reed comes from a setting that is both military and medical. Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, the squad leader who lost one leg and the use of his other in a grenade attack, said his recovery was made more difficult by a Marine liaison officer who had never seen combat but dogged him about having his mother in his room on post. The rules allowed her to be there, but the officer said she was taking up valuable bed space.

"When you join the Marine Corps, they tell you, you can forget about your mama. 'You have no mama. We are your mama,'" Groves said. "That training works in combat. It doesn't work when you are wounded."

Whether you are military or civilian, you know - or you should know - that in their most vulnerable state, patients absolutely need someone watching out for them. Even the most attentive medical practioners make mistakes, let alone caregivers who can't actually find their patients. It should be the military looking out, but apparently the military cares more about keeping up its numbers than caring for its constituent individuals.

I could toss my waffles. I could just puke.



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