Bush Panel, Congress Urge Aid for Wounded Vets A special commission appointed by President Bush issued its report Wednesday on improving health care for wounded veterans, particularly those returning from Iraq. And the Senate approved a bill to streamline benefits and increase military pay.
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NPR's David Greene Reports on the Panel's Recommendations

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Bush Panel, Congress Urge Aid for Wounded Vets

NPR's David Greene Reports on the Panel's Recommendations

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Today, that panel offered its findings, as NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE: When the conditions at the Walter Reed Medical Center were revealed last spring, there was anger at the Bush administration, which is responsible for the facility. But President Bush assumed the role of problem solver. He set up a presidential commission to take a close look at veterans' health. And in the Oval Office today, he said the chairs of that commission, Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, did good work.

GEORGE W: We owe our wounded soldier the very best care and the very best benefits and the very easiest to understand system. And so they took a very interesting approach, and that they took the perspective from the patient as the patient had to work its way to the, you know, hospitals and bureaucracies, and they've come up with some very interesting and important suggestions.

GREENE: Among the reporters listening to the president was ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff. He was severely injured by a roadside bomb while reporting in Iraq last year. The president singled Woodruff out and said he hopes wounded soldiers can get the type of care Woodruff got. Clearly, back on the job, Woodruff shouted a question to Mr. Bush about how quickly the government is going to move to help veterans.

BUSH: Just because I recognize you, it doesn't mean I'm going to answer your question.

GREENE: Co-chair Donna Shalala said she wanted to avoid that.

DONNA SHALALA: Rather than 300 recommendations, we have six. That would actually allow us to dramatically improve the experience of someone that comes through the health care and the benefit systems.

GREENE: Co-chairman Bob Dole said the White House and Congress should look at the suggestions and act.

BOB DOLE: We did this because it was important and because there were problems that need to be addressed. And we're expecting, you know, somebody to follow-up on it.

GREENE: Lawmakers were already following up. The Senate approved legislation today that would offer more help to wounded veterans, and the House was holding a hearing on the issue. Still, Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State said the key is for the White House to demand change from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

PATTY MURRAY: And I will say this. We can pass legislation. The commission can put forward recommendations that unless this administration directs DOD and VA to do it and tells them that they will have the resources to make that happen, it's just going to be another piece of legislation and another commission report.

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

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