Not 'a Good-News Story'

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Friday, March 2, 2007

YESTERDAY THE Post reported that Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley heard years ago from a veterans advocate and even a member of Congress that outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was distressingly squalid and disorganized. That commander proceeded to do little, even though he lives across the street from the outpatient facilities in a spacious Georgian house. Also yesterday, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the head of Walter Reed since August, had been relieved of his command. His temporary replacement? None other than Gen. Kiley.

Here's where the story stops making sense. Much of The Post's article detailed the abuse by omission that Gen. Kiley, not Gen. Weightman, committed, first as head of Walter Reed, then in his current post as Army surgeon general. Gen. Weightman, who very well might deserve his disgrace, has commanded Walter Reed for only half a year, while Gen. Kiley, now back in charge of Walter Reed, headed the hospital and its outpatient facilities for two years and has led the Army's medical command since. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife say they repeatedly told Gen. Kiley about unhealthful conditions in outpatient facilities.

While Gen. Kiley was ignoring Walter Reed's outpatients, he was assuring Congress that he was doing just the opposite. A staffer for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) told us yesterday that Gen. Kiley told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2005 that the performance of the medical holdover program, which covers 69 of the 76 residents of Building 18, "is a good-news story." In response to questions Mr. Davis submitted, Gen. Kiley stated, "the Army Surgeon General has made their care the medical treatment facilities' top priority." At best, Gen. Kiley was ignorant of the conditions at Walter Reed.

We are glad that the Army is finally taking the issue of outpatient care seriously enough to effectively end the career of a major general for presiding over the disgraceful condition of Building 18. But the evidence compiled so far suggests that Gen. Kiley has been more complicit in the scandalous neglect of Walter Reed's outpatient facilities for longer than Gen. Weightman has been. It also indicates that the Army's reshuffle is really about projecting the appearance of accountability, not punishing those most responsible. As Mr. Young said yesterday of Gen. Weightman, "I don't know him. But I know he's the fall guy."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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