A presidential commission is pushing for some broad changes in veterans' health care, just four months after roach-infested conditions were discovered at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
That incident prompted the creation of the president's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, which presented its findings to the White House today.
The commission said big changes were needed: Streamline and simplify health care to cut red tape and delays, extend the family leave act to allow relatives to care for injured service members for up to six months without losing their jobs, and create a Web site that centralizes all the information about benefits for vets and their families, were some of the recommendations.
"We owe a wounded soldier the very best care, and the very best benefits, and the very easiest to understand system," President Bush said as the panel presented its report.
The system has been exposed as understaffed, underfunded and under pressure from an unexpected flow of severely injured troops.
"We knew that the system had some problems, and we also knew that Band-Aids were not going to cut it," said former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who's on the president's panel..
Veterans groups said the findings should be a wake-up call.
"This report is really an indictment of the military health care system," said Paul Rieckoff of the Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America.
This is just the latest in a long list of similar reports that haven't fixed the problem — there have been 34 by the General Accounting Office and 11 previous commissions dating back half a century — all calling for changes in the military's health care system.
'Checking In With the White House … Tomorrow'
Veteran care is a system that failed Sgt. Michael Boothby, previously interviewed by ABC's Bob Woodruff.
Boothby suffered a traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb in Iraq, but when he was transferred from a VA hospital in Tampa, Fla., to a facility near his Texas home, his condition deteriorated.
"We should have never left Tampa," said his wife, Megan Boothby, back home in Comfort, Texas. "They weren't ready for us here."
The big question is whether this latest set of recommendations will get the system ready for tens of thousands of injured veterans.
When asked today by Woodruff if the system should have been updated three years ago, committee member Bob Dole said, "How about 10 years ago? I'm going to be checking in with the White House, like tomorrow."
"You're going to keep pushing them?" Woodruff asked.
"Yes. I mean, that's what they told me, if we find something, let's fix it," Dole said. "OK. We found it, now let's fix it."
Bush pledged similar support.
The president jogged today with two amputees from the Iraq War and vowed he would take the commission's recommendations seriously.