Floor and Committee Statements

Thursday, July 12, 2007 -

Floor Statement on Wounded Warrior Care

Thursday, July 2, 2007

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on Wounded Warrior Care
Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor

Mr. President, we have had a tenuous debate, and it is going to go a while. I first commend Senator Levin on this amendment. I am proud to be a cosponsor of it. Although we have differences on many things, I don't think there is a difference in this Chamber on the provision of services and health care to our wounded warriors as they come home. As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I have been pleased to work with Senator Akaka and Senator Craig on many of the provisions in this legislation. I thank Senator Carper for allowing me to take a few minutes.

I appreciate the remarks by the Senator from Illinois about what he has done in this bill. As I listened to many of the discussions about the things we need to fix, I think sometimes we forget to remember all the things we are doing well. I wish to talk about two things.

One, I wish to let the men and women of the U.S. Department of Defense medical services and the Veterans' Administration know how much I appreciate what they are trying to do and what they have been trying to do. Let me illustrate that by telling a very brief story.

I go to Walter Reed periodically anytime there is a wounded Georgia veteran there. I also see other veterans, but I make it a point to make sure that the parents or a spouse of every one of those veterans has my phone number and knows they have an advocate in Washington as long as they are at Walter Reed.

One of my visits to Walter Reed just happened to be on the Monday following the breakout of the story about building 19 or 18, the building that was in bad shape. That was a national story and reflected poorly on Walter Reed and on us.

When I got there, I first went to visit Corporal Pearson, a Georgian, actually from my home county, who had been wounded. I gave him my phone number, and asked for his father's phone number. I left from there to go to see Building 18. I went over there and saw the condition Building 18 was in, and I, too, knew we could do much better.

On the way to my office at Russell, I called from my car on my cell phone to the corporal's father and left a message for him to call me back. He called me that night. I told him how much I appreciated his son's service, and I wanted him to know, while he and his wife were in Georgia and his son was at Walter Reed, they could use me as a family member, if they would, to give them any assistance he might need at the hospital.

He thanked me for that. He said: Senator Isakson, just do one thing for me. I have been watching all this on the news about that building, and I am sorry about that, but if anybody asks you, tell them my son has been in Walter Reed for 10 days, and my wife and I were with him every day until yesterday, and I have never seen anybody receive finer care.

I pass that on not to in any way mask those places where we do have difficulties and need improvement--many of them recognized in this particular amendment--but as we talk about things we want to make better, we cannot forget that day in and day out the loyal American service men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces medical corps at Walter Reed and in the VA who are doing a phenomenal, lifesaving job, a better job than has ever been done in the history of warfare. I want to put in that compliment and pat on the back for them.

Secondly, with regard to the wounded warrior amendment, this addresses so many things we have learned from the trauma of the types of wounds that are coming from the type of warfare we are fighting in Iraq. We are saving so many more of our wounded warriors on the battlefield, but because of that we have many more who need long-time care, long-time attention, and specific attention. This wounded warrior amendment goes a long way toward doing that.

I particularly compliment the authors of the amendment, and all of us on the Veterans Committee, on the new referral system that is put in here for the diagnosis of PTSD, and how that has been greatly improved in the number of people who can actually make that referral back to Veterans Affairs or the Veterans' Administration or back to DOD, if they are still on active duty.

I also want to brag for a second about General Shoomaker at Walter Reed. One of the things we talk about--and Senator Durbin's remarks addressed this--is the difficulty we have been having with the handoff of health care from leaving DOD to going to the VA. That has been a problem, and we have a record number of people who are being handed off once their service is over, while they still have treatment necessary, from DOD to VA.

General Shoomaker was at Fort Gordon in Georgia prior to coming to Walter Reed, when he was asked to come in and straighten out the difficulties Walter Reed had. While at Fort Gordon, General Schoomaker had been the real catalyst for what is said in the military to be the best seamless transfer of wounded warriors from DOD to the Veterans Administration.

Today, now, for those who are coming home with amputations, who are in need of long-term therapy, long-term treatment, long-term care, who go from active duty, are severed honorably, to go into veterans status, they have created a seamless transfer in that rehab at Augusta, which is recognized as second to none. I know the recommendations in this amendment which will be adopted by this body will go a long way toward improving the systems by which those transfers take place.

I am pleased to rise to thank those in our military and the care they give, and know there are areas where we can do better. I commend Senator Levin and the many cosponsors of this particular amendment for all the work and time that has gone into it.

As we have a very tenuous and difficult debate, it is important for the American people to know every Member of this Congress appreciates the care that is given by our military doctors and our military medical personnel and understands we can do better. As we deal with the trauma that comes from the type of conflict we are now in, this wounded warriors amendment will see to it that the care, the referral, the diagnosis, the treatment, and the transfer are better now than they have ever been before.