February 6, 2008
Contact:
Leah Yoon, NPR

   

ERIC SCHOOMAKER, ARMY SURGEON GENERAL,
DENIES INSTRUCTING VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
TO STOP ASSISTING INJURED SOLDIERS
WITH DISABILITY PAPERWORK;
ON NPR NEWS’ ALL THINGS CONSIDERED,
TODAY, FEBRUARY 7

RESPONSE FOLLOWS JANUARY 29 NPR INVESTIGATION; FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW WILL BE AVAILABLE AT NPR.ORG


February 7, 2008; Washington, D.C. - In an interview airing today with NPR News’ Justice Correspondent Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered, Eric Schoomaker, the Army Surgeon General, denies instructing Veterans’ Affairs staff at Fort Drum in upstate New York to stop assisting injured soldiers with military disability paperwork. Adding to the apology he makes on behalf of his staff for the “miscommunication” between Army officials and soldiers, General Schoomaker says “We encourage and welcome any help that these soldiers and their families can receive from competent, well-informed people.”

On January 29, NPR News Justice Correspondent Ari Shapiro reported exclusively that Department of Veterans' Affairs staff at Fort Drum in upstate New York had been instructed to stop assisting injured soldiers with their military disability paperwork, used to determine annual disability payments. Within 48 hours of its broadcast, congressional leaders had asked the Army to investigate these charges and a national soldiers’ advocacy group has announced plans to seek an official military Court of Inquiry probe into the situation. The original report is here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18492376

The Army Surgeon General denied Shapiro’s report. In today’s Morning Edition report, Shapiro described the contents of a document contradicting the Surgeon General’s version of events. The document, described in detail the meeting at Fort Drum between VA officials and representatives from the Army Surgeon General’s office; it was written the day after the Fort Drum meeting last Spring. Shapiro reported that, according to the four-page document, Colonel Becky Baker of the Army Surgeon General’s office told the VA to “discontinue counseling soldiers on the appropriateness of Defense Department ratings,” citing a “conflict of interest.” The document claimed that the primary purpose for the meeting was “to ensure that there are no other ‘Walter Reed’ situations at other Army installations.” The follow-up report can be found at:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18742202

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All Things Considered, NPR's signature afternoon news magazine, reaches 11 million listeners weekly, and is hosted by Melissa Block, Michele Norris and Robert Siegel. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org/stations