1. Hagel: Health System Review to Begin ‘Immediately’
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters traveling with him on a multi-country 12-day trip that he began asking military leaders about Defense Department hospitals and health care facilities around the world about a week ago.
Hagel has placed Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in charge of a 90-day review of the military health system.
“I suggested that we think about this and come together with some concurrence within our military and our leadership of a thorough review of all of our facilities,” he said.
After meeting with Work and the secretaries or undersecretaries of each service and other key personnel, on May 27 the defense secretary announced the parameters for a comprehensive review military health system.
The review comes just days after the commander of Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. was replaced following the deaths of several patients after what was routine treatment, and amid several on-going investigations into the separate health care system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, where there have been allegations of unusually long delays for medical care.
“We've got to focus on three primary things,” Hagel said. “…Are our people getting what they need and when they need it? Are they getting safe attention and medical care? And … is it consistently the high standard of quality that we commit to our military men and women and their families around the world?”
The review will be led by Work, with the assistance of the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and the direct participation of the secretaries of the military departments and the service chiefs, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said.
“In addition, Secretary Hagel has asked Deputy Secretary Work to solicit the perspectives of outside experts in the areas of patient safety and quality care,” Kirby said.
Hagel said he has requested weekly updates on the progress of the review.
"As the secretary has made clear, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our people,” the admiral said. “To the degree we learn about issues affecting the health care of our military health beneficiaries, including active duty service members, retirees, and their eligible family members, we will address them."
“We're going to start this immediately,” Hagel said. “These are big operations. They're imperfect operations. But this is part of leadership and oversight -- to assure … and reassure our people that we are doing what we need to do in order to fulfill a commitment we made to them in health care.”
A final report is expected to be delivered to Hagel by August 29.
2. House Leadership Press Conference
This week staff from the national security division stood alongside leadership from the House of Representatives during a press conference regarding the recent events within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A federal investigation of operations in the troubled Phoenix VA Health Care System found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were “at risk of being lost or forgotten” after being kept off an official waiting list. While initially focused on Phoenix, the investigation described Wednesday by the VA Department’s inspector general found broad and deep-seated problems in the sprawling health care system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.
The interim report confirmed earlier allegations of excessive waiting times for care in Phoenix, with an average 115-day wait for a first appointment for those on the waiting list — nearly five times as long as the 24-day average the hospital had reported.
3. Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
The MCRMC continues to hold meetings throughout the country. Below is a list of upcoming hearings:
June 25-26, 2014 - Fort Bragg, NC
July 23-24, 2014 - Executive Session, Arlington, VA
The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was established to conduct a review of military compensation and retirement systems and to make recommendations to modernize such systems. The Commission is tasked to submit a report, containing a comprehensive study and recommendations this month to the President of the United States and Congress. The report will contain detailed findings and conclusions of the Commission, together with its recommendations for such legislation and administrative actions it may consider appropriate in light of the results of the study.
4. POW/MIA Update
Marine Cpl. Harold W. Reed, 23, of Rochester, N.Y., was buried on May 24th in Toledo, Ohio. In November 1950, Reed was assigned to Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, when his unit disengaged from the enemy and began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south near the village of Hagaru-ri. On Nov. 29, 1950, Reed was killed in action from a missile wound while fighting on the western side of the Chosin Reservoir.
In 1954, United Nations and Communist Forces exchanged the remains of war dead in what came to be called “Operation Glory.” All remains recovered in Operation Glory were turned over to the Army Central Identification Unit for analysis. The remains they were unable to identify were interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, known as the “Punchbowl.”
In 2013, analysts from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) reevaluated Reed’s records and determined that portions of the remains recovered from Operation Glory should be exhumed for identification.
To identify Reed’s remains, scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, such as radiograph comparison, which matched Reed’s records.
Today, 7,883 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American teams.