Bush Visits Injured Veterans in Texas

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By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Friday, November 9, 2007; 4:07 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- President Bush paid an emotional visit Thursday to soldiers maimed or badly burned in combat and said his administration is determined to mend the nation's system of caring for veterans.

Medical advances provide troops with treatment unimaginable just a decade ago, but the system for managing that care has lagged, Bush said.

"Our system needs to be modernized," the president said after touring a new $45 million, privately funded rehabilitation center for veterans at Brooke Army Medical Center.

"We have an outdated system that can bog down some of those recovering in a maze of bureaucracy and that's what happened at Walter Reed," he said, referring to the Army medical center in Washington, D.C.

Bush's visit to Brooke comes amid scrutiny of veterans' care and discontent among returning troops after extended tours in Iraq.

The president said his administration had put in place recommendations of the commission he created after reports about substandard outpatient treatment at Walter Reed. He urged Congress to act on others that require legislation.

"There were serious problems (at Walter Reed) caused by bureaucratic delays and administration failures, and that is unacceptable," Bush said. `It's unacceptable to me as the commander in chief, it's unacceptable to the families of those who deserve the best care and it's unacceptable to the American people."

At the rehabilitation center, Bush stopped at a "gait lab," where amputees with protheses learn to walk on gravel, artificial turf and other surfaces. A pool with a simulated wave allows patients to practice their balance while riding tiny surf boards.

Bush toured a physical therapy gym where two double amputees tossed a ball while balancing themselves on exercise balls. He talked to two servicemen with faces so burned that scarring had left them with mask-like expressions.

The president also watched as Lance Cpl. Matt Bradford, 22, of Winchester, Ky., who lost both legs and his sight in an explosion in Iraq, climb a fake rock wall. Other soldiers cheered him on as he slowly scaled the 35-foot wall and captured a red flag at the top.

"Good man. Isn't he?" Bush said.

The administration recently announced it would hire workers to individually guide seriously wounded soldiers and their families through their recuperation.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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