Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Johnstown could be doing something for vets

Mr. Bush named Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and G.O.P. presidential candidate, and Donna Shalala, the health and human services secretary during the Clinton administration, to head a panel to investigate the problems at Walter Reed.

In view of the critical need for care, the rote calls for redundant investigations into the cause of the problems (we all know the cause) at Walter Reed will produce nothing. What Iraq vets need, as soon as possible, is good medical and psychiatric care, job training, and help getting back to the communities where they feel at home.

An actual opportunity exists in Johnstown, PA.

That's where, for the past two years, from the ground up, veterans groups, citizens and physicians have been working to address the needs of soldiers returning from Iraq. The wing of a former medical facility in Johnstown has been identified as ideal for those in need of treatment for PTSD and other purposes. It's available, and all the groundwork has already been done by people with both the appropriate skills (doctors who specialize in brain injury, for example) and the highest level of commitment.

The 33-bed wing could be up and running by this summer if it can get funding. Congressman John Murtha is said to be working on that.

If anyone in Congress or fuBushco actually wanted to do something, as opposed to "handling" this like another Abu Ghraib and Katrina, they'd get Congress to put money into the Johnstown facility. Make the center so good at what it does that its success would be replicated around the country, especially in rural areas where high-level medical attention is not always present. The vision of vets not only benefiting from the best care, but getting it and job training near their homes and families, ought to get anyone in D.C. off their arse -- besides the obvious merit of the mission, this is pure political gold.

It's there -- all it needs is funding. Probably cost less than what a few of the investigations will run. Skeptical? Ask about the former Crichton Center wing of the HGA Rehabilitation Center in Johnstown, PA. Talk to people linked to the Pennsylvania Disabled Veteran Rehabilitation/ Vocational Retraining Project.


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