WALTER REED: THE BATTLE FOR RECOVERY

RETRO REPORT  / NEW YORK TIMES, 12 min (2013) editor

In 2007, the scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center shocked the nation.  Today, after major reforms, what’s changed for America’s injured soldiers? 

After a series of articles in The Washington Post detailed the neglect and squalor endured by outpatients at Walter Reed, President Bush promised reforms. Congress investigated. And the Army pledged to provide wounded, ill or injured troops with the care they–and their families–deserved.

The key reform was the creation of thirty-six Warrior Transition Units, which promised to help broken soldiers recover in a supportive environment.

But six years later, a heated debate continues about whether that promise has been fulfilled. Former Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker, who oversaw the WTUs, admits there were “growing pains” but says the system is working well.

Noel Koch disagrees. In 2009, as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, he investigated WTUs and says he concluded that all too often the new units replicated some of the problems initially found at Walter Reed in 2007–the very problems they were supposed to solve.

As the debate continues, veterans like Dan Shannon–the original “face” of the Walter Reed scandal–continue to navigate their own recoveries and wonder what the future holds for wounded soldiers in America.