WOODALL: An inspiring story

Rob Woodall

Rob Woodall

On this Veterans Day, I want to share an inspiring story with you about the development and progress of the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.

Today, media reports are filled with stories about the failures of the federal government, and with good reason -- too many federal programs are outmoded or completely ineffective. In the rare case of successful changes or reform, we rarely hear the story told. I want to take this Veterans Day to tell you the story of how America made changes so that we could make good on our promises to America's wounded warriors.

For more than 100 years, the name Walter Reed has been synonymous with our nation's finest and most extensive efforts to care for veterans returning from the battlefield. For many who walked through its doors, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was their greatest source of comfort and healing. Following the beginnings of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recognized that without changes, the Center would be unable to keep pace with the unique needs of our new wounded warriors, and the DoD began to take steps to bring the Center into the 21st Century by consolidating its infrastructure, repealing unnecessary bureaucratic policies, and bringing the majority of its best physical and mental health experts together under one roof. In 2011, the old hospital closed its doors and the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda became fully operational.

I have had the privilege of visiting the new Walter Reed a number of times over the past year to meet with our wounded warriors. The Center features the most wide-ranging military physical rehabilitation program and the most comprehensive trauma care services available anywhere in the world, and they are dedicated to our veterans. The Center also revamped a program, known as "post-battle buddies," that matches service members who are beginning their recovery with wounded warriors who are nearing the completion of theirs. These "post-battle buddies" provide friendship and camaraderie to the wounded warriors, and many times offer a special sense of reassurance during those most challenging times when it seems that no one else can completely understand what the service member is feeling. Each time I departed the Center, my confidence grew that our service members were receiving the very best physical and emotional care we could possibly provide.

The development of the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center should be a required case study for everyone working to improve our government. This isn't a story about throwing more money at government to enhance a program. This is a story about moving the government in the right direction so that it can successfully help those it is intended to serve. The DoD knew that new sub-agencies and working groups were not the answer to making Walter Reed even better. It knew that the wounded warrior health care program could be improved by minimizing its bureaucracy rather than expanding it. The winners in this effort are our wounded warriors and every American taxpayer who considers it an honor to support them.

Though we have accomplished a lot over the past few years, our efforts on behalf of our military men and women returning from the battlefield will not stop with the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. There is always more work to be done for our veterans, and I promise you that I will do all I can in Congress to help fulfill our nation's promise to them.

If you or someone you know would like additional information about the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, please visit the Center's website at www.wrnmmc.capmed.mil/. Additionally, if you or a loved one are suffering from a service-connected injury and are having any difficulties reaching out or getting the care you need and deserve, I would encourage you to contact my office at 770-232-3005 for assistance. Our nation's heroes should never feel that they are alone. They were there for America when we needed them, and I commit to you that I will be there for them now. May God bless all our veterans and their loved ones on Veterans Day and every day. May God bless America.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, serves on the House Budget Committee and the House Rules Committee.