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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army and Navy will review medical care and living conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., according to the Defense Department.

The move comes after The Washington Post ran a series of articles beginning Sunday, exposing substandard living conditions at Walter Reed.

Walter Reed’s Building 18, which houses 76 soldiers recovering from war wounds, was found to have mold, water damage, mice and elevator outages, according to the Post.

In addition to the Army and Navy reviews, an independent panel will look at outpatient care and administrative issues at the two hospitals and report back to Defense Secretary Robert Gates within 45 days of its formation, officials said.

The review will focus primarily on Walter Reed, but it will include the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., because of “a couple of anecdotes” that have been reported about servicemembers’ experiences there, said Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs.

If needed, the independent panel will look at other hospitals, but for right now the review will focus on Walter Reed and Bethesda because the two hospitals handle the majority of returning wounded servicemembers, Winkenwerder said.

“I’m also informed by the Chief of Naval Operations that he has directed an inspector general review to make sure there are no other issues at any Navy facilities,” Winkenwerder said. “We don’t have any indications of that, no concerns no complaints, no data that would suggest that.”

Asked if the Inspector General’s office would look at all Navy facilities, Winkenwerder said he understood that the review would focus on Bethesda.

Also Wednesday, Gen. Richard Cody, Army vice chief of staff, attributed the problems at Walter Reed to a “breakdown in leadership” and said bureaucracy “bogged down a speedy solution to these problems.”

Cody said some of the people in charge of Building 18 did not have the appropriate rank or experience to do their jobs, but he refused to say who was at fault for the conditions reported by the media.

“I’ll take responsibility for this and I’ll make sure that it’s fixed,” Cody said.

Cody also said he has met with people at the level where leadership broke down and “the appropriate actions have been taken,” but so far no one has been fired or relieved of command.

“We will do the right thing across the board as we continue to assess where the leadership failure and breakdowns were,” he said.


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