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Dole, Shalala to investigate Walter Reed problems

Story Highlights

• Bush names co-chairs for Walter Reed hospital investigation
• President calls situation unacceptable: "It's not going to continue"
• Senate Armed Services panel grills military brass on the problems
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday named Democrat Donna Shalala and Republican Bob Dole to head a commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Shalala is a former secretary of health and human services; Dole is a former GOP presidential nominee.

Substandard conditions and a confusing bureaucracy at an outpatient facility at Walter Reed for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were revealed in a series of articles in the Washington Post in February.

"It's unacceptable to me, it's unacceptable to you, it's unacceptable to our country, and it's not going to continue," Bush said in a speech to the American Legion in Washington.

"My decisions have put our kids in harm's way. And I'm concerned about the fact that when they come back they don't get the full treatment they deserve." (Watch Bush outline what he's doing about Walter Reed situation Video)

Bush said the commission will also examine whether similar problems exist at other military and veterans' hospitals.

Shalala served for eight years in the Clinton administration and is currently president of the University of Miami.

Dole, a wounded World War II veteran, was a senator from Kansas for 27 years and served as Senate majority leader before his retirement from Congress. He was the Republican nominee for president in 1996.

Also Tuesday, senators on the Armed Services Committee were questioning senior members of the military about the problems.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker and Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley testified before the panel. Kiley was in charge of Walter Reed from 2000 until 2004.

The Washington Post series documented a variety of problems at "Building 18," a one-time motel converted to a long-term outpatient dormitory at the Washington hospital. The newspaper found troops who lost limbs and suffered traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress were quartered for months in moldy and rodent-infested rooms with inadequate follow-up care.

Monday, witnesses told a House panel that wounded U.S. soldiers are forced to struggle against a nightmarish and untrustworthy Army medical system that leaves veterans stranded in unfit conditions. (Full story)

Two Iraq war veterans and the wife of a third gave heartbreaking tales of neglect at the now notorious Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Annette McLeod, wife of Cpl. Wendell McLeod, who received an injury to his head in the war, said her husband "has been through the nightmares of the Army medical system."

"This is how we treat our soldiers -- we give them nothing," she said. "They're good enough to go and sacrifice their life, and we give them nothing. You need to fix the system." (Watch emotional testimony about Reed's problems Video)

The panel chairman, Rep. John Tierney, called "the unsanitary conditions" and other problems at Walter Reed hospital "appalling."

Maj. Gen. George Weightman, whose duties included overseeing the facility before he was fired over the scandal, said, "It is clear mistakes were made, and I was in charge. We can't fail one of these soldiers or their families, not one, and we did."

Acting Secretary of the Army Peter Geren told the committee that "we have let some soldiers down."

"We're going to fix that problem," Geren said.

Geren stepped into his role after Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey's resignation Friday. In addition to Harvey's resignation, the outcry over the conditions some outpatient soldiers faced at Walter Reed led to Weightman's removal. (Watch why the Army secretary and hospital commander lost their jobs Video)

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