Hunter Opening Statement on Challenges and Obstacles Wounded and Injured Troops Face During Recovery

Mar 7, 2007
Press Release

Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988 

Washington D.C.Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, today released the following opening statement for the House Armed Services Committee’s hearing on the challenges and obstacles that wounded and injured troops face during their recovery process:

“Good morning Dr. Chu, Dr. Winkenwerder, General Schoomaker and General Kiley. Thank you for being with us this morning to discuss the medical treatment, quality of life and administrative support provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Army to wounded and injured military personnel.

“You already have had several opportunities this week to discuss the issues raised by the recent Washington Post articles.  I appreciate your willingness to inform this committee about the DoD and Army plans for addressing the systemic shortcomings that led to the unacceptable treatment of our wounded troops.

“The Washington Post articles highlight the complexities of the current system for managing the medical and administrative needs of wounded and injured service members and their families.  It is clear that the system requires constant Congressional oversight.  I am pleased that the committee is continuing its bipartisan efforts that began during the 108th Congress and continued throughout the 109th Congress to gather information, identify areas for improvement and work in partnership with the Department and the Services to fix the problems.  For example, the ongoing effort by the Veterans Disability and Benefits Commission to evaluate the adequacy of the entire system for compensating wounded and injured service members and veterans began in 2004 as an initiative of this committee.

“This committee’s oversight efforts indicate that the problems with the medical holdover system, along with the medical and physical evaluation systems, were not confined to the National Capitol Region or to one service or to just the Department of Defense.  That’s why Rep. John McHugh and I have asked Secretary Gates to expand the Department’s review and analysis to be a Department-wide effort.  And I was pleased with the President’s announcement of an independent commission, headed by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, to look across the entire system, including those operated by DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I am sure that in reaction to the Washington Post articles, Congress will try to fix the identified problems through quick enactment of new legislation.  Some of that may be appropriate, but I would urge that any statutory initiatives taken be limited to those that are absolutely needed in the short term.  Broader statutory fixes would be better informed after we get feedback from the various investigative and review efforts that have begun. 

“I think the more pressing concern should be for Congress to immediately address funding and resource shortfalls during fiscal year 2007 and 2008 in both the DoD and VA systems that are struggling to take care of the demands placed on them.  So before Congress levies any more new, possibly unfunded, statutory mandates on the Department, we ought to step up to fully funding the medical and operational requirements we already know.  That certainly means to me additional fiscal year 2007 and 2008 funding.

“Before I yield back Mr. Chairman I want to be very clear, that the system failures illuminated by the Washington Post are in no way representative of the hard work and dedication exhibited every day by the incredible military medical professionals who are solely responsible for saving countless lives…lives that would have been lost just a few years ago.  We must ensure that the unprecedented success of the military medical system is never diminished.”