Walter Reed Army Medical Center is investigating the former head of a program that aids injured soldiers.
The probe is into the activities of Michael J. Wagner, who until last month ran the Army’s Medical Family Assistance Center, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Tuesday. The center links businesses, charities and other donors with wounded troops who need financial help or families strained by living costs, air fares and other expenses when they come to Washington to visit or help care for injured soldiers.
The Washington Post — citing documents and interviews with current and former staff members at the assistance center — said Wagner was seeking funders and soliciting donations for a Dallas, Texas, charity at the same time he administered the Army program.
Wagner is now a director of the Texas-based charity, the Military, Veteran and Family Assistance Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides services and resources for veterans and their families.
He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday at the foundation office, where another official said Wagner would issue a statement later in the day.
The newspaper said that in a telephone interview Wagner denied he had solicited funds for the charity or made contact with donors during office hours. “It’s just not true,” he was quoted as saying. “I intentionally stayed out of that. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do both.”
Wagner said the charity was founded by his brother and that he did not officially become its executive director until he left Walter Reed, according to the Post.
The story was the latest in a Post series that also disclosed bureaucratic delays and substandard living conditions endured by some soldiers there as outpatients, as well as problems in receiving benefits.
Senators urge inquiry
Two senators on Tuesday urged Defense Secretary Robert Gates to launch an inspector general’s investigation into what they called the “deplorable living conditions facing returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.”
In their letter to Gates, Democratic Sens. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Patty Murray of Washington also urged him to investigate conditions at the Navy’s top hospital — the National Naval Medical Center — in Bethesda, Md.
“If conditions at Walter Reed, the crown jewel of military health care facilities, have degraded to the point where mouse traps are handed out to patients, how can we feel confident that our troops and veterans truly have the care and transition assistance they have been promised at any facility across the country?” the senators wrote.
NBC: Gates orders matter as top priority
A senior military official told NBC News on Tuesday that when Gates learned about the Walter Reed allegations over the weekend, he made the issue a top priority, instructing his subordinates to come up with a solution to the problem on Tuesday.
Dr. William Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense for health sffairs, toured the facility Tuesday, and the Defense Department is expected to announce the formation of either a task force or a formal investigation into the problems by Tuesday afternoon, NBC News reported.