CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ohio Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt says she toured Walter Reed Army Hospital and contends the furor surrounding reports of inadequate medical care for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is "overblown."
Schmidt, who represents the state's 2nd Congresssional District that includes a portion of Cincinnati and several counties on and near the Ohio River, issued a presser today. Her view is that the media and politicians concocted a scandal, a view that contrasts dramatically with that of Defense Secretary Robert Gates , who has ousted the Army Secretary and shaken up the top brass.
"I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed. Some have shown too much defensiveness and have not shown enough focus on digging into and addressing the problems."
That was Gates on March 2.
But Schmidt today describes the situation as "overblown by both politicians and the media." She talks about mold in Building 18, but doesn't mention that some severely injured vets were left on their own to figure out how to find follow up treatment for major wounds. That situation left them stranded without adequate care and rehab. Gates understood that the heart of the scandal was outpatient care and followup.
Some might see in Schmidt's remarks a sense that she doesn't completely grasp what the secretary of defense realized. Or she was attempting to gloss over a national disgrace. Read her words:
"While I believe that this building is beneath the standard of what is acceptable, I think it is wrong to suggest that mold found behind an air conditioner somehow is an excuse to say that all of our veterans are receiving substandard medical care. It is important to remember that the building in question is an apartment building, not a medical facility. Further the building was scheduled to be torn down within two years.
"There is no question that Building 18 should have been upgraded or not in use at all. Postponing Building 18's demolition and allowing its use for living quarters was a poor management decision, and the decision makers should be - and have been -- punished.
"Needless to say, Building 18 is now empty, and will be demolished.
"While I found the situation at Walter Reed to be overblown by both politicians and the media, I hope that future accounts will bring more light to the real issues. We need to do more to make sure that our veterans get the level of healthcare they desperately need. Which is why, in the supplemental bill the House will debate next week, there is $3.5 billion in new funding to improve the veteran healthcare system."
A link to Schmidt's Web site is HERE. Bottomline on Schmidt: She says veterans desperately need care, but that Walter Reed doesn't illustrate a broken or malfunctioning healthcare system because the reports there were hyped.
[UPDATE: BlueOhioan finds Schmidt's statement perplexing. I wonder what the Republicans who may run against her next year are thinking? Is it possible she opened the the door for a little early season Schmidt bashing?]