Advocate Scrutinizes Report on Veterans' Care William Rollins Jr., field services director for Paralyzed Veterans of America, approves of some of the presidential committee's report on veterans' care — such as improving support for families — but says other reforms are missing.
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Advocate Scrutinizes Report on Veterans' Care

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Advocate Scrutinizes Report on Veterans' Care

Advocate Scrutinizes Report on Veterans' Care

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports on today's hearing.

ANDREA SEABROOK: In October of 2004, a young Army soldier named Jonathan Town was delivering the mail at his base in Ramadi, Iraq, when it came under fire.

JONATHAN TOWN: While running for shelter in my S-20 shop's office, a 107-millimeter rocket exploded three feet above my head, leaving me unconscious on the ground, with a severe concussion, shrapnel in my neck, and blood pouring from my ears.

SEABROOK: Town was rushed to the medical unit, treated for his wounds, and given the day to rest. He returned to duty the next day.

TOWN: Two months later, I was awarded a Purple Heart for my injuries I suffered on that traumatic day in October. This is when everything started to go downhill healthwise for me. Throughout the next nine months, while continuing to serve my country, I battled severe non-stop headaches, bleeding from my ears and insomnia.

SEABROOK: Another veteran, Paul Sullivan, who runs an organization called Veterans for Common Sense, says there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of cases like Town's. Sullivan's group filed suit against the Department of Defense this week with one goal in mind.

PAUL SULLIVAN: If a service member goes to war and they come back, wounded, injured, ill, and they need medical care, the country has an obligation, social contract, to provide that care.

SEABROOK: Kors told the lawmakers that he's been told by Army insiders that doctors are pressured to make these diagnoses, sometimes to save the Army money. That assertion raised the ire of Indiana Republican Steve Buyer who demanded that Kors name his sources. When he wouldn't, Buyer raged, saying, this is exactly the problem with taking congressional testimony from journalists.

STEVE BUYER: They get to speak in generalities as the major premise, and we don't know - with regard to the credibility or embellishments, they get to use innuendo, and the results then...

SEABROOK: At this point, Sullivan broke in...

BUYER: ...reckless indictments.

SULLIVAN: Sounds very much like a congressman I know, too.

BUYER: Well, the mirror looks pretty good.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SEABROOK: They changed his diagnosis to PTSD, and awarded him 100 percent disability benefits and medical care. Committee Chair Bob Filner of California said the problem is the many thousands of other veterans whose cases are not in the media spotlight.

BOB FILNER: The system is leading to this situation. I have been told by a doctor, Mr. Buyer - and I'm not going to reveal his name here because he thought he'd be fired - that he was told by his commanders to diagnose people with PTSD and get them out. I asked him to testify. He was fearful of that.

SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.

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