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Report Says Fixes Slow To Come at Walter Reed

The oversight committee has balked at the suggestion in favor of recovery coordinators supplied by the VA. But the GAO questioned the beleaguered VA's ability to handle the job, noting that it "may face significant human capital challenges in identifying and training individuals for these positions."

A slew of commissions and task forces have agreed that at the heart of the bureaucratic maze is a system in which the military services and the VA evaluate injured service members. The often-conflicting evaluations leave many recovering soldiers in limbo for months or even years.

A pilot program to establish a single joint system was slated to begin Aug. 1. But the date slipped as the Pentagon and the VA reviewed options.

Michael L. Dominguez, a deputy undersecretary of defense, testified that a pilot program was approved this week but probably would not begin evaluating wounded soldiers until January.

"We're seven months into this process, and we're just now getting off the ground," Tierney said. "Why has it taken so long?"

Dominguez responded that the Pentagon and the VA needed to exercise "due diligence" before plunging forward with fundamental changes. "It does take some time to develop those details," he said.

Members of the panel sharply criticized Walter Reed for the hospital's handling of the case of Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, who testified before the panel in March about his more than two years spent navigating the disability system. The Washington Post reported this month that a paperwork glitch further delayed his retirement. Schoomaker said the problem has been resolved, but panel members described the episode as highly troubling, given the public prominence of Shannon's case.

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