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The commander in charge of a U.S. Army hospital here in Washington has been fired. He lost his job at the Walter Reed Medical Center, which until very recently received acclaim for the way it was treating veterans wounded in Iraq. And then the news coverage changed.
NPR's Guy Raz reports from the Pentagon.
GUY RAZ: For 10 days, the Army's top medical officers have been walking on eggshells around the halls of the Pentagon, expecting the worst. In a series of articles two weeks ago, the Washington Post exposed nothing less than a scandal. A medical bureaucracy that left hundreds of wounded Iraq vets wading through mountains of paperwork. Some of them living in dorm rooms not fit for humans, let alone war veterans.
Now step one was to fire hospital director Major General George Weightman. And step two, says Army spokesman Paul Boyce, will be an overhaul of the way Walter Reed deals with outpatients.
Mr. PAUL BOYCE (Spokesman, U.S. Army): As we find things that need to have corrective action, we will take those steps immediately.
RAZ: The first immediate step was to appoint Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley as the interim head of Walter Reed. Kiley is the top Army medical officer and until 2004, he was the officer in charge of Walter Reed. Several former Army officials who worked at Walter Reed under Kiley say he has known about these problems at least since 2003. And even last week, when the Pentagon promised swift action, Kiley was publicly blasting the Washington Post for what he called one-sided reporting.
So the decision to have him lead Walter Reed in the interim has left some senior Pentagon officials fuming. One saying, in private, they've fired the wrong guy and promoted the wrong guy. And in an interview last night, Senator Hilary Clinton who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee said she'd look into it.
Senator HILARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Member, Senate Armed Services Committee): It's extremely troubling that senior officials at Walter Reed now and in the past appeared to have known about the poor treatment, the lack of support, the substandard living conditions. And that bothers me greatly.
RAZ: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already appointed an eight-member team to review the procedures at Walter Reed. And within 45 days, that committee will release its findings. But even before then, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its own investigation next week. Again Senator Clinton.
Sen. CLINTON: We want to know who knew what when, and how could this have happened.
RAZ: And according to top Pentagon officials who are following this story, it's not over yet.
Guy Raz, NPR News, the Pentagon.
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