News Releases

Senator Murray Takes Fort Lewis Problems Straight to Army's Top Medical Leader in Contentious Hearing

Mar 07 2007

Murray gets assurances of "no retribution" for soldiers who report problems;

Senator asks about soldiers at Madigan Army Medical Center languishing in medical hold units, receiving low disability ratings, and not getting needed care

AUDIO: Murray Questioning Gen. Kiley

AUDIO: Murray's Opening Comments

Murray Questions Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley

Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley

Senator Murray
Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley


(Washington, D.C.) - At a contentious Senate hearing today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) questioned the Army's surgeon general about reports of problems at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis.

"From what I'm hearing, Walter Reed is just the tip of the iceberg," Murray said citing recent news reports of problems at Madigan. "If these reports are true then the Pentagon is failing our service members at exactly the time they need the most support. That is shameful and unacceptable. We've got very talented medical professionals trapped in a system that doesn't let them do their jobs fully, and that's an outrage."




Murray pressed Army Surgeon General Kiley, who commanded Walter Reed from 2002-2004, for his assurance that no soldier will suffer reprisals for reporting inadequate care.

SEN. MURRAY: We can't get to the bottom of this, and we can't do our job unless we do know exactly what's happening out there, and I want your personal assurance -- if you would please give that to me -- that no soldier who blows the whistle on substandard care will be retaliated against.

Lt. Gen. KILEY: Senator, you have my word. There's a law that prevents that also, the whistleblower law, and I share your concern that soldiers either feel they can't talk certainly to their Representatives. Certainly we want them to talk to us. But we've have never put a prohibition or a threat of retaliation if they talk to the press.


Murray asked about soldiers spending up to two years in medical holdover units, including Captain Mary Maddox.

MURRAY: I am hearing from soldiers who say they are languishing for months or even years in medical holds without the care they need . . . .How can this be happening four years into this war?

KILEY: It's not acceptable to have soldiers languishing. I'll be the first to say that, and clearly we're taking action to make sure we don't.


Further, Murray asked Kiley about low disability ratings for injured soldiers, which deny them the disability pensions they deserve.

MURRAY: The suspicion is that medical and physical boards are giving artificially low disability ratings to save money for the Army. At a hearing yesterday, it was revealed that while other branches grant full disability about 20 percent of the time - for the Army it's only about 4 percent.

KILEY: I agree that the system that we have . . . is clearly perceived as unfair particularly when compared to the VA system of disability, and we have already started discussions to change that.


Kiley promised Senator Murray that he will instruct his medical personnel to ensure that the medical evaluation boards will rate soldiers' injuries accurately.



Murray also asked about military screenings for Traumatic Brain Injuries. [Audio]

Senator Murray's opening statement follows:

I want to thank those service members who care for their sick and injured comrades both in theater and back here at home. However, I am very concerned that while we have dedicated people they're working in a system that is failing our soldiers.



From what I'm hearing, Walter Reed is just the tip of the iceberg. This morning, the Seattle Times detailed serious problems at the medical holdover unit at Madigan Army Medical Center in my home state.



It details soldiers who are -

  • Left to languish in medical hold units for nearly 2 years;


  • Soldiers who are being hurried out of DoD care before they receive the surgery they need;


  • Being given low disability ratings that don't reflect their injuries and deny them an Army disability pension; and


  • Being pressured to sign their medical evaluations to get them off the DoD books.


If these reports are true then the Pentagon is failing our service members at exactly the time they need the most support. That is shameful and unacceptable. The Seattle Times quotes Pamela Layne, whose husband, Specialist Steve Layne, was sent home without being diagnosed for a Traumatic Brain Injury. His wife said:

"I want people to know that if their loved ones are there, they will have to fight for their care. . . .If they do not, they will get lost in the system."


The article also says that soldiers who push for help are "branded as malcontents."



And there are conflicting reports - one soldier told the Tacoma News Tribune that he received excellent care and generally good casework at Madigan, but he also said:

"If you want your care, you really have to fight for it. Their strategy is to get you so disgruntled that you just say screw it and go home."


So we've got very talented medical professionals trapped in a system that doesn't let them do their jobs fully, and that's an outrage. General Kiley, you're in charge of this system, and I hold you accountable for every disturbing story I'm hearing in my home state, and I want answers.



The Walter Reed scandal exposed the problems with military medical care, and then the latest stories out of my home state show that the problems are much deeper and more painful than moldy walls and red tape.



Many soldiers are worried that if they speak out publicly they'll be punished or it will end their military careers. General, I want your personal assurance that no soldier who blows the whistle on substandard care will be retaliated against.