Army's Top Doctor Steps Down Amid Hospital Crisis Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army's top medical officer who was chosen to resume command of the beleaguered Walter Reed Army Medical Center, is taking early retirement. But Kiley's exit seems to have been forced; Pentagon officials say he was fired.
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Army's Top Doctor Steps Down Amid Hospital Crisis

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Army's Top Doctor Steps Down Amid Hospital Crisis

Army's Top Doctor Steps Down Amid Hospital Crisis

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Seigel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

The Army's top medical officer is out of a job. Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley resigned his post today. He's the latest senior Army official to quit in the wake of the scandal over poor outpatient care for wounded combat soldiers.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Kiley said, we are an army medical department at war, supporting an army at war. It shouldn't be and it isn't about one doctor.

Kiley will be replaced by his deputy, Major General Gale Pollock.

NPR's Guy Raz reports.

GUY RAZ: A few days after soldiers at Walter Reed went public with their complaints, the Army's media advisers invited reporters to the hospital for a guided tour. And the tour guide was Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley. And it was probably on that day, this was February 22nd, when Kiley's future as the Army surgeon general started to look pretty bleak.

Kiley didn't like the Washington Post stories that exposed the medical bureaucracy so tedious, so complicated, it left hundreds of wounded Iraq soldiers without proper medical care. And Kiley was pretty defensive about it on that day.

Lieutenant General KEVIN KILEY (Former Commander, Walter Reed Army Medical Center): While we have some issues here, this is not a horrific, catastrophic failure at Walter Reed.

RAZ: Except that for five years, the Army and the White House had been reassuring the American public that wounded soldiers were getting the best possible care in the world. That wasn't how soldiers were describing it and a lot of troops recovering at Walter Reed blamed General Kiley. He wasn't just the top army doctor but he was actually the head of the hospital until 2004 and several former army official said Kiley knew about the problems there.

Now last year, an NPR investigation found that recently returned combat soldiers at Fort Carson, Colorado who are suffering from psychological trauma weren't getting the care they needed, and in some cases, they were being punished by their commanders.

When my colleague Daniel Zwerdling, asked Lt. Gen. Kiley about Fort Carlson, the general replied -

Lt. Gen. KILEY: There's no post more attuned to the issues in mental health and getting help for soldiers.

RAZ: Last week, Kiley sat, stone-faced, in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee as Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill read out a letter she got from a Walter Reed outpatient.

Ms. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (Republican, Missouri): We, as injured veterans and those family members who depend on military medical facilities deserve nothing less than the resignation of General Kiley.

RAZ: From that moment, it became increasingly clear that Kiley, to use a military cliché, was going to have to fall on his sword. The Army Civilian Secretary Francis Harvey has already resigned, so has the commander of Walter Reed, Major General George Weightman. And now, the Army's entire medical system is under intense scrutiny.

Earlier today, at Walter Reed, the Army's acting secretary, Pete Geren, promised a streamlined process that will allow wounded soldiers to get the care they need, fast.

Mr. PETE GEREN (Acting Secretary, U.S. Army): We made a good start but much remains to be done. I share in your conviction that we will do whatever it takes to get it right.

RAZ: Pentagon officials say General Kiley's resignation today wasn't voluntary - in short, he was fired. And by the end of the day, he'll have cleared out his desk.

Guy Raz, NPR News, The Pentagon.

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