March 9, 2007
Contact:
Leah Yoon, NPR
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BOB DOLE, CO-CHAIR OF THE COMMISSION
ON CARE FOR RETURNING WOUNDED WARRIORS,
TALKS TO NPR NEWS
ABOUT TAKING ON HIS NEW POST AND IDEAS
ON HOW TO IMPROVE HOSPITAL CARE FOR VETERANS

ON NPR NEWS’ ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
TODAY, FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2007
TRANSCRIPT BELOW;
AUDIO AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG

Bob Dole on improving hospital care for veterans: “It’s not just somebody coming in with a wound that can be addressed and taken care of and the young man or young woman go back to the unit or go back to the Guard or Reserve or home. Some of these are very – particularly brain injuries. Not many VA hospitals are equipped to deal with traumatic brain injuries. You know, I’m just thinking sort of out of the box. We need to work out some arrangement with these specialty hospitals in the private sector where veterans or young men and women on active duty can be treated in those hospitals where we know they’ll get the best possible care.”


March 9, 2007; Washington, DC – In an interview airing this afternoon with NPR News’ All Things Considered, Bob Dole, newly named co-chair of the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, speaks with NPR host Michele Norris about assuming this new position and his ideas on how to improve hospital care for veterans.

A rushed transcript of the interview with former Senator Bob Dole is below. Audio of the interview is available at www.NPR.org. Any television use of excerpts must have NPR logo on-screen indentifying the soundbyte. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News’ All Things Considered.

All Things Considered
For two hours every weekday All Things Considered hosts Robert Siegel, Michele Norris and Melissa Block present the evening newsmagazine’s trademark mix of news, interviews, commentaries, reviews and offbeat features to 11 million listeners each week.

-NPR-

MICHELE NORRIS: Earlier this week, President Bush appointed a bipartisan panel to help fix the ailing medical system that provides care for wounded U.S. troops. Former Senator Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala will head the Military Medical Commission. It will investigate conditions at both active duty military and veterans hospitals.

Former Senator Bob Dole has lots of experience with the military medical system. He was seriously wounded while serving in Europe during World War II. He spent years going through multiple surgeries and extensive therapy and ultimately he lost the use of his right arm.

He joined us from his office in Washington and he described his reaction upon reading the Washington Post series about the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

SENATOR BOB DOLE. Well, I was surprised. You know, I’ve visited Water Reed Hospital, sometimes as a patient but many times just to go – I went out for Thanksgiving dinner, for example, my wife and I, and then I was out there for Christmas dinner with the soldiers. So I’m there quite often but I wasn’t in Building 18, which is not sort of part of the campus; it’s across the street. It used to be a hotel and then the government took over this building and obviously it wasn’t taken care of.

MS. NORRIS: So you – with the time that you’ve spent at Walter Reed, did you have any indication that conditions had deteriorated to this degree?

SEN. DOLE: Well, again, I was in the – when I was a patient there – and I’ve been a patient – (chuckles) – I had kidney stones removed there, I had a prostatectomy there, I had part of my colon removed at Walter Reed, and I’ve been there – I took a fall there a couple of years ago and spent 41 days there. And so I have a pretty good idea – because moving around to the different areas for x-rays and whatever, you know, it’s actually – it’s a good hospital, but in the case of Building 18 and probably some other areas that haven’t been looked at, there are shortcomings. But I think in the main hospital, I don’t think it’s a question of medical care. It’s bureaucracy and it’s a hand-off to the VA, and whether or not we make certain that they get the best possible care when they leave, and hopefully with all the people now focused on it they’ll be addressed.

MS. NORRIS: In accepting this mission, did you inform the president as to what you would need to make sure that your recommendations have teeth; that they don’t get lost in this morass of other suggestions from all these other panels?

SEN. DOLE: Well, I – you know, I’ve been around long enough, and so has Secretary Shalala, that we both weren’t interested in being on some commission that when you finish and hand in a report, they say, thank you very much, and that’s the end of it. And the president made it very clear to both of us that, you know, if we needed something, we would have it. So hopefully we’re going to come up with something that might be of help and we can complement what’s happening in the Congress and with other groups.

MS. NORRIS: Would it be fair to say that you’re angry about what’s gone on?

SEN. DOLE: Well, having been, you know, a disabled veteran most of my life and having worked with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans as a service officer in my younger days trying to help veterans with their claims, you know, it seems to me we can – if we can spend all the money we’re spending to make certain they get to Iraq or Afghanistan, and all the money we spend while they’re there, we ought to make certain we spend enough when they come home, whether you’re injured or wounded or whether you’ve got some stress problem or brain injury, mental health, whatever it is; some of these young men have drug problems, some have alcohol problems, some have family problems, and it’s very complex.

It’s not just somebody coming in with a wound that can be addressed and taken care of and the young man or young woman go back to the unit or go back to the Guard or Reserve or home. Some of these are very – particularly brain injuries. Not many VA hospitals are equipped to deal with traumatic brain injuries. You know, I’m just thinking sort of out of the box. We need to work out some arrangement with these specialty hospitals in the private sector where veterans or young men and women on active duty can be treated in those hospitals where we know they’ll get the best possible care.

MS. NORRIS: I guess one question would be who would fit the bill for that?

SEN. DOLE: The government. He’s entitled. I mean, or she would be entitled. We have an obligation as Americans – and I’d be hard-pressed to find some American who wouldn’t be willing to spend whatever it takes to make certain that we provided the best possible care.

MS. NORRIS: Mr. Dole, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SEN. DOLE: Okay, Michele, thank you.

(END)