Yet even now it's not clear whether the public will be told the full story, which is that the horrors of Walter Reed's outpatient unit are no aberration*. For all its cries of "support the troops," the Bush administration has treated veterans' medical care the same way it treats everything else: nickel-and-diming the needy, protecting the incompetent and privatizing everything it can.
But as with FEMA, the Bush administration has done all it can to undermine that achievement. And the Walter Reed scandal is another Hurricane Katrina: the moment when the administration's misgovernment became obvious to everyone.
We know from Hurricane Katrina postmortems that one of the factors degrading FEMA's effectiveness was the Bush administration's relentless push to outsource and privatize disaster management, which demoralized government employees and drove away many of the agency's most experienced professionals. It appears that the same thing has been happening to veterans' care.
The redoubtable Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, points out that IAP Worldwide Services, a company run by two former Halliburton executives, received a large contract to run Walter Reed under suspicious circumstances: the Army reversed the results of an audit concluding that government employees could do the job more cheaply.
What comes next? Francis J. Harvey, who as far as I can tell was the first defense contractor appointed secretary of the Army, has been forced out. But the parallels between what happened at Walter Reed and what happened to New Orleans - not to mention parallels with the mother of all scandals, the failed reconstruction of Iraq - tell us that the roots of the scandal run far deeper than the actions of a few bad men.
I think the "roots of the scandal" will be traced to a morally bankrupt Repuglican ruling class. This Vets' care mess has been known about for years, but has only come to light to the point of something being done about it under Democrats. Get 'em, Hank.
No kidding. Go see WaPo:
'It Is Just Not Walter Reed'
Oliva is but one quaking voice in a vast outpouring of accounts filled with emotion and anger about the mistreatment of wounded outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Stories of neglect and substandard care have flooded in from soldiers, their family members, veterans, doctors and nurses working inside the system. They describe depressing living conditions for outpatients at other military bases around the country, from Fort Lewis in Washington state to Fort Dix in New Jersey. They tell stories -- their own versions, not verified -- of callous responses to combat stress and a system ill equipped to handle another generation of psychologically scarred vets.
Hundreds of soldiers contacted The Washington Post through telephone calls and e-mails, many of them describing their bleak existence in Medhold.
From Fort Campbell in Kentucky: "There were yellow signs on the door stating our barracks had asbestos."
From Fort Bragg in North Carolina: "They are on my [expletive] like a diaper. . . . there are people getting chewed up everyday."
From Fort Dix in New Jersey: "Scare tactics are used against soldiers who will write sworn statement to assist fellow soldiers for their medical needs."
From Fort Irwin in California: "Most of us have had to sign waivers where we understand that the housing we were in failed to meet minimal government standards."
If you think you've got "outrage overload" now, wait 'til you read the whole piece. Your eyes will flash red and steam will come out your ears. Make sure your safety valves aren't tied down or your head's likely to explode.
I'm glad this is all coming out now, but four years is too goddam long.