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Army Chief Resigns Amid Walter Reed Scandal

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Army Chief Resigns Amid Walter Reed Scandal


Army Chief Resigns Amid Walter Reed Scandal

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. Scott Simon is away.

The Army's top civilian official resigned yesterday in the wake of a scandal over substandard outpatient care for wounded Iraq war veterans at the Army's Walter Reed Medical facility.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey stepped down just a day after he fired the top general in charge of Walter Reed. Pentagon officials say Harvey's resignation was requested by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

NPR's Guy Raz is covering the story. He joins us now. Good to have you with us, Guy.

GUY RAZ: Good morning, Lynn.

NEARY: First of all, remind us of how we got to this place now.

RAZ: Well, about two weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a series of articles. It was a culmination of a four-month investigation into conditions at an outpatient facility at the Walter Reed, the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center. And the reporters discovered that some of these veterans from the Iraq and the Afghan wars were living in substandard housing conditions, and then that they had to navigate this medical maze of bureaucracy just to get basic outpatient medical service, like seeing a doctor, for example. Obviously the story caused an enormous stir inside of the Pentagon.

NEARY: How has the Pentagon responded?

RAZ: Well, immediately after the story broke, the Pentagon ordered a clean-up of some of the housing areas at Walter Reed. And then on Thursday the Army's secretary, the civilian secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, fired the commander of Walter Reed Hospital, Major General George Weightman.

What had happened was, the Army secretary, Francis Harvey, then appointed the current Army - the current Army surgeon general, Kevin Kiley, to run Walter Reed in the interim.

NEARY: But Kiley lasted for an incredibly short amount of time.

RAZ: He lasted less than a day, in fact. And what had happened was that Kiley's appointment was very controversial inside of the Pentagon, because Kiley himself at one point, up until 2004, was the commander of Walter Reed Hospital. And a lot of people who knew him then say he knew about these problems at the time and he didn't do enough to address them.

NEARY: So who's in charge of Walter Reed now?

RAZ: Well, now the person in charge of Walter Reed is General Eric Schoomaker. Major General Eric Schoomaker is the brother of the current Army chief of staff, Peter Schoomaker, who is now soon to be the outgoing chief of staff. And Eric Schoomaker is currently the head of an Army biological medical facility, research facility, in Maryland. And he starts the job right away.

NEARY: What do you expect is going to happen from here?

RAZ: Well, we can expect more dismissals, and I think that Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley, the current Army surgeon general, will almost likely resign or be asked to leave, probably within the week - that's the word around the Pentagon. The president has already ordered an investigation, the Pentagon has its own investigation, and Congress is going to be conducting hearings on this next week.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much, Guy.

RAZ: Thank you.

NEARY: NPR's Guy Raz.

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