Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, expressed his concern today about limitations being imposed on the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, which is charged with investigating shortcomings in medical care for troops returning from war, including the poor conditions reported at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Chairman Akaka sent a letter to President George W. Bush today, signed by fellow Veterans' Affairs Committee members John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Bernard Sanders (I-VT).
While praising the President's quick selection of Commission Co-Chairs Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, and offering to help the commission in any way possible, the Senators questioned the time constraints placed on the Commission and asked the President for more specifics on how the Commission is expected to fulfill its mandate in the time allotted.
The text of the letter is attached below:
March 14, 2007
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
The Executive Order to establish a Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors is a worthy and noble endeavor. As Members of the Majority on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, we are quite concerned, however, that the scope for the Commission and the requisite time line may be overly ambitious. Without the time to delve into these issues, we fear that we may be looking at solely a political reaction to the very real problems at Walter Reed.
We note the rapidity with which Members of the Commission were named. Co-Chairs Dole and Shalala certainly bring the expertise, and we truly believe they will do everything in their power to ensure that the Commission attempts to meet the charge.
The mission of the Commission is particularly broad. Indeed, the mission encompasses a review of the very nature of military service and the transition back to civilian society. This alone would take more time than the Commission is afforded. By way of comparison, your Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans was chartered in May 2001 and did not provide its final report until May 2003.
Specifically, we would like to know what guidance you are giving the Co-Chairs regarding the approach and processes they are expected to follow in order to answer the critical questions and to meet the deadline.
Mr. President, we know that you have just begun to attack this complicated issue, but it is critically important that we get this right. Congress stands ready to assist you with necessary resources and authority, and we pledge our full support to ensure that we are meeting the needs of returning servicemembers.
March 15, 2007