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New post to deal with problems at Walter Reed

Story Highlights

• Army has created new post to help soldiers at Walter Reed
• Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker to become the deputy commanding general
• Appointment is part of action plan for Walter Reed and other Army medical centers
• Actions prompted by disclosure of substandard conditions at Walter Reed
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Army has created a new post to help address problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army's vice chief of staff announced Thursday.

Gen. Richard Cody said Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker will become the deputy commanding general of the hospital, acting as Walter Reed's "bureaucratic buster."

"Basically, there should be an 'easy-button' for our soldiers and families to go to where someone welcomes them and says 'what is your problem, what are your issues,' " and help them quickly, Cody said.

Tucker, currently stationed at Fort Knox, will work with soldiers recovering from war wounds to help them cut through government red tape.

"He understands soldiers, he understands leading and combat, he understands how to run large organizations," Cody said of Tucker at a round-table meeting.

The appointment of Tucker is part of an action plan for Walter Reed and other Army medical facilities requested by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, in response to complaints about the treatment of veterans.

In addition to Tucker's new position, Cody said a 24-hour wounded warrior and family hotline, with a 1-800 number linked directly to the Army Operations Center at the Pentagon, will be available soon.

Plans are also being made to add more case workers, personnel and financial specialists, as well as a family and soldier assistance center, Cody said.

Before Cody's announcement, he and Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the newly appointed commander of Walter Reed and brother of Peter Schoomaker, toured Abrams Hall.

Patients were moved there from Building 18, a one-time motel converted to a long-term outpatient dormitory at the Washington hospital. Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee that, as of Thursday, Building 18 is empty while undergoing repairs and refurbishing.

A series of stories in The Washington Post in February documented a variety of problems at Building 18. The newspaper found troops who lost limbs and suffered traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress quartered in moldy and rodent-infested rooms.

The scandal resulted in the firing of Maj. Gen. George Weightman, commander of Walter Reed, and the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. (Watch why the Army secretary and hospital commander lost their jobs Video)

Earlier this week, witnesses testified about the conditions at the Army's top medical center. (Watch emotional testimony about Reed's problems Video)

Two Iraq war veterans and the wife of a third gave heartbreaking tales of neglect and told a House panel that wounded U.S. soldiers were forced to struggle against an untrustworthy Army medical system.

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

"I'm glad that you care about what happened to my husband after he was injured in the line of duty. Because for a long time, it seemed like I was the only one who cared. Certainly, the Army didn't care. I didn't even find out that he was injured until he called me himself from a hospital in New Jersey."

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and ex-Cabinet member Donna Shalala vowed Wednesday to carry out a "vigorous" review of health care for recovering war veterans.

President Bush asked Dole and Shalala this week to lead a panel on care for those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their reports are due June 30. (Full story)

Vice President Dick Cheney made a speech earlier in the week to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, saying that President Bush has made clear "there will be no excuses, only action."

"We're going to fix the problems at Walter Reed, period," he said.

CNN's Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.



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