WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 6, 2007) - Americans have a moral obligation to provide the best possible care and treatment to the men and women who serve their country, President Bush told members of the American Legion here today.

In order to ensure that troops get the best care, Bush introduced a new bipartisan presidential commission that will review servicemembers' health care.

"This review will examine their treatment from the time they leave the battlefield through their return to civilian life as veterans, so we can ensure that we're meeting the physical and mental health needs involved," Bush said.

The commission, headed by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, currently president of the University of Miami, will conduct a comprehensive review of military medical care. Meanwhile, a separate task force will assess short-term needs, Bush announced.

"As this commission begins its work and considers its recommendations, I've also directed the secretary of veterans affairs to lead a task force composed of seven members of my cabinet to focus and respond to immediate needs," he said.

The president's announcement comes a day after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard wounded Soldiers' testimonies detailing mismanagement at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"Many people working at Walter Reed are ... dedicated, honorable healers who care deeply about our Soldiers," he said. "Fine doctors, nurses and therapists work day and night to help the wounded.

"Yet some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve," Bush said. "It's unacceptable to me; it's unacceptable to you; it's unacceptable to our country; and it's not going to continue."

Bush said he asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to assess the situation at Walter Reed and report his findings. "He confirmed that there are problems, real problems," Bush said. "He's taken action to address those problems and hold people to account, including relieving the general in charge of the facility and accepting the resignation of the secretary of the Army."

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned March 2 in light of the problems at the center, and Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the medical center's former commander, was relieved of command March 1.

Bush said the bipartisan presidential commission is the "constructive way" to find out if problems similar to those at Walter Reed exist at other military and veterans hospitals.

(John J. Kruzel writes for the American Forces Press Service.)

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