Remarks Following a Visit to the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Thanks for coming. It's an honor for me to be here with Senator Bob Dole and Secretary Donna Shalala, Secretary Jim Nicholson and Deputy Secretary Gordon England. I appreciate the opportunity to come to a building full of compassion, a place of expertise, where people are dedicating their time and efforts to help those on active duty and those who have served before.
Any time there is any doubt in anybody's mind that our veterans are not getting excellent care, then we in Government have a duty to deal with those doubts. I have asked Secretary Gates and Secretary Nicholson to review their respective Departments and the interface of their Departments—the Defense Department and the Veterans Department—to make sure that any doubt as to whether or not a veteran or one on active duty gets the best care is—does so.
I also asked Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala to lead a nonpartisan, independent Commission to identify areas where we can do better and, more importantly, come up with solutions as to how to deal with those problems. The Commissioners conducted a very serious and lengthy review of our military and veterans health care systems, and they submitted recommendations to me at the end of July. After Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala briefed me on their recommendations, I then directed Secretaries Gates and Nicholson to study and, more importantly, implement the recommendations, so we can ensure our severely wounded servicemembers that—and their families that they will receive the best possible care.
We've got great health care for our wounded. We just want to make sure that the system is seamless and that the families are treated with the utmost of care during these difficult moments. Secretaries Gates and Nicholson and their Departments are working hard to make sure their Agencies talk to each other and collaborate. Equally importantly, they're looking at the recommendations that the Dole-Shalala Commission put forward, and they're implementing them. In other words, the Commission did really good work. The Commission's recommendations are solid, and therefore, to the extent that we can move without congressional law, we will do so. And not only will we do so, we will keep the Commissioners abreast of the progress we are making.
Secondly, we want to work with Congress. When they come back in September, we want to work with Congress to pass that which is necessary to make sure that the Dole-Shalala Commission's recommendations are fully implemented. In other words, there are some aspects of the Commission recommendations that require congressional approval. We believe it's important for Congress to listen to the Commission. We believe the recommendations make a lot of sense, and we would ask for the Congress to pass those recommendations as quickly as possible, so I can sign them into law.
There's an amazing—there's a lot of amazing things taking place here in this facility. For example, we saw information technology, health care records that are being passed seamlessly from the Department of Defense to the VA to make sure that the care providers here have got up-to-date access for each patient. We saw volunteers helping the wounded learn to regain balance and confidence through kayaking programs. I saw physical therapists—I heard physical therapists talk about their patients with the kind of care and compassion that obviously requires a big heart and strong commitment.
The commitment of this Government is this: Anybody who is sent into harm's way deserves the best possible care. We're dedicated to this goal. If we find problems, we'll solve the problems. For those who are providing the care, we thank you. For the soldiers who are receiving the care, we owe you the best. And for the families who stand by them, we thank you for your patience.
God bless our troops. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to former Sen. Robert J. Dole and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, Cochairs, President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors; and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.
George W. Bush, Remarks Following a Visit to the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/276100