Washington, DC — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today sent the following letter to President Bush, calling on him to take several critical steps to ensure any review of the systemic problems facing military health care is non partisan and thorough. While President Bush has taken a good first step in announcing two distinguished leaders to head his newly-announced Commission, the Congressional leaders believe he should follow by ensuring that veterans and families with a firsthand understanding of the problem be included. Furthermore, they urged the President to work with Congress in selecting the Commission’s members and determining its responsibilities in order to ensure it attains the greatest strength and highest credibility. The text of the letter is below.
March 7, 2007
The President The White House Washington, D.C. 20500 Dear Mr. President: In light of the recent disturbing revelations about the poor quality of health care provided to many of those returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are pleased with your decision to form a nine-member Presidential commission to examine this critical issue. It seems increasingly clear that the poor conditions and mistreatment exposed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are unfortunately part of a larger systemic failure to provide our heroes the care they deserve. We agree with you that the best way to ensure the success of this commission is by removing any perception of political taint. Caring for those who have bravely served our nation transcends political affiliation. Therefore, any commission exploring these critical issues must be truly bipartisan or, even better, non-partisan. You have taken a good first step by naming two distinguished Americans with valuable experience to co-chair this commission. We believe more needs to be done to provide our troops and the American people confidence in the commission’s work. First, it is essential the commission include both service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan and their family members with a firsthand understanding of the flawed system. Rather than explicitly making it clear you are prepared to do this, your executive order establishing this commission merely states the commission should "consult with…veterans service organizations." We believe that is not sufficient. Second, under your executive order, Congress has no role in selecting the members of the commission or determining its responsibilities. History demonstrates that the most effective commissions, such as the independent 9/11 Commission for example, are those where the executive and legislative branches of government, including members of both political parties, share responsibility and power. In this instance, we think the commission will be stronger and its conclusions will have greater credibility if Members of Congress from both parties play a role in selecting the remaining members of this commission, including the veterans and family members mentioned above. Acting on these suggestions will go a long way toward providing the thorough and nonpartisan review the current revelations demand, and towards guaranteeing our troops the kind of health care their service demands and they deserve. We appreciate your consideration of our request.
Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House