Good morning. This is Congressman Harry Mitchell from Arizona.
Americans were shocked this week when they learned of the deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Walter Reed is the Army's finest medical facility in the country, and the doctors and nurses who work there are the best in the business.
But the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed aren't being treated like the heroes they are. They are living in decrepit rooms. Black mold covers the walls and rodents ran free.
These conditions are unacceptable, and the Democratic Congress has acted quickly to hold the Bush Administration accountable for the conditions at Walter Reed and the treatment of American soldiers.
In the past week alone, Democrats held a series of hearings regarding conditions at Walter Reed. We asked the tough questions and now we're acting on what we have learned.
What we now know is that the situation at Walter Reed cannot simply be fixed with drywall and paint. The problems at Walter Reed were not just about run-down buildings — the problem was a catastrophic failure of leadership.
And unfortunately, Walter Reed is not an isolated case. Soldiers and veterans from across the country are now telling their stories — heartbreaking tales of men and women who have risked their lives for our country and are now forced to wait weeks to see a doctor.
Sadly, what is happening at Walter Reed is not an exception to the way this Administration has treated our troops. Too many of our brave young troops were sent to war without the equipment they needed. Once they came home, too many found long waiting lines in a Veterans Health system that has been persistently underfunded by the Bush Administration.
This is no way to treat our troops, no way to treat our veterans, and Democrats are taking action. We have demanded new leaders at Walter Reed and we are closely monitoring conditions there to ensure our troops have the high-quality care they deserve.
As Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I held a hearing this week about the important aspect of care for all veterans — the transition from active duty status to veteran status. One of the things discussed during my hearing was the fact that Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson ended a critical program at the VA that made sure veterans exiting active duty did not get lost in the system and fall through the cracks, simply because he decided it was too expensive.
I'm a fiscal conservative. I would rather cut taxes than raise them. And I think one of the best things Congress can do is find government waste and weed it out. But it's not right to hurt veterans when they so desperately need our care, and for too long the Bush Administration has tried to care for our veterans on the cheap. If there is anything we are going to spend our resources on, shouldn't it be care for our veterans?
I'm proud to joined Senator Barack Obama, Senator Claire McCaskill and Congressman Rahm Emanuel in sponsoring the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, which will help returning troops and eliminate the red tape so many encounter when they return home.
And Democrats will also continue fighting for more funding for veterans' health care. In the emergency war funding bill the House will soon vote on, Democrats provide some $3.5 billion in additional funding above the President's request to deal with the health care problems faced by returning servicemen.
And Democrats will keep fighting for true American heroes like Corporal Ruben Gallego of Phoenix, Arizona. Corporal Gallego fought in Iraq. Democrats will always make caring for Corporal Gallego, his fellow veterans, and the new generation of troops one of our top priorities.
Corporal Gallego has my word that we will continue to fight to ensure that he and his comrades have the care they need when they are injured, the support they have earned when they return home, and the high-quality medical care they have been promised. Our troops and our veterans deserve nothing less.
This is Congressman Harry Mitchell of Arizona. Thank you for listening.