Gen. Admits Flaws In Soldier Care Units

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The government came under fire last year over the treatment of America's wounded warriors, when shoddy conditions were exposed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Since then, the Army has overhauled its outpatient program.

But, as CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports, many soldiers still aren't getting the medical treatment they were promised.

In the wake of the Walter Reed scandal, 35 so-called "Warrior Transition Units" were set up at bases around the world. They were supposed to be places where soldiers could be cared for until they either returned to duty or were discharged.

But the general in charge of the program admits it hasn't been working the way it was supposed to. Here's why.

"How many soldiers in these units were actually wounded in combat?" Martin asked.

"About 12 percent were wounded in either Iraq or Afghanistan," Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek said.

"Only 12 percent?" Martin said.

"Only 12 percent," Cheek said.

If you include those whose injuries could be called combat-related - a stressed-out soldier in a car accident after returning from Iraq, for instance - the percentage goes up to 48 percent.

The rest have injuries or illnesses which have nothing to do with combat. As a result, the number of soldiers in Warrior Transition Units exploded from 6,000 to 12,000 - even as casualties in Iraq were going down.

"We were putting soldiers into the Warrior Transition Unit that really didn't need that complex, managed care," Cheek said.

"So did somebody say, 'Hey, this isn't how it was supposed to work?'" Martin asked.

"I would say yes," Cheek said.

With the number of soldiers in transition units increasing by about 600 a month, the Army can't hire health care workers fast enough.

"By the time we got the ratio up to where it needed to be, we were probably 30-to-60 days behind what the population had already grown to," Cheek said.

Last week the Army tightened the medical conditions that qualify a solider for a Warrior Transition Unit. And a new order requires all units to be fully staffed by Monday, but some aren't going to make it.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.