Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Questions & Answers: Army Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker; Walter Reed Chief Takes Hot Seat Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker Was in Jacksonville Friday for the Florida VFW Conference

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Questions & Answers: Army Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker; Walter Reed Chief Takes Hot Seat Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker Was in Jacksonville Friday for the Florida VFW Conference

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

Army Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker became the commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in March following public disclosures about decrepit conditions in its outpatient facilities and hostile bureaucratic hurdles faced by wounded troops.

Since then, he and the Pentagon have been making sweeping changes at the Washington hospital and throughout the military's system of care.

Schoomaker was in Jacksonville Friday to speak to the Florida Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the Hyatt Regency downtown. The Times-Union talked to him about what's happening at Walter Reed.

WHY DID YOU FIND IT IMPORTANT TO SPEAK TO THE FLORIDA VFW CONVENTION?

No. 1, they asked. The VFW ... are key supporters of us in uniform and they are the among the most powerful groups to support the soldier and his or her family in all phases of their career and life after service. ... Maintaining their trust and confidence in us, I think, is essential.

HAS THE ORGANIZATION ALSO BEEN CRITICAL OF THE PROBLEMS AT WALTER REED?

Understandably so. I think we all respect them for the fact that they look for and seek the truth and hold us to a very high standard.

HOW MUCH OF THE HOSPITAL'S PROBLEMS HAS BEEN PERCEPTION, AND HOW MUCH HAS BEEN REALITY?

That's hard to tell because I don't know what other people's perceptions are. ... I can own up to the fact that, No. 1, we took our eye off the ball on a couple important elements of soldier life and family support for our ill and wounded soldiers.

WHAT WERE THOSE ELEMENTS?

The overall care, concern and accountability for the well-being of our soldiers and their families. The organization and its leadership. These are all being solved very actively right now. We are restoring the infrastructure to the level that we can be proud of. ... We are moving from a [model of care] in which the soldier has to find services in the hospital and community, to one in which the community and the hospital join around the soldier and his or her family.

HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP HAVING A NON-MEDICAL, COMBAT-EXPERIENCED OFFICER AS YOUR DEPUTY AT WALTER REED? …

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