Experiencing Walter Reed

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Specialist Rebecca Schroeder of Eau Claire arrived at Walter Reed early last month after suffering shrapnel wounds to her leg, hand and right eye during a mortar attack north of Baghdad.

Since then Schroeder has received a purple heart and, what she says, has been quality care at the army's highly scrutinized hospital.

"My experience has not been bad. I understand for other people it has not been the same, but for me I've really not had a problem with Walter Reed," says Schroeder.

The hospital came under fire after a Washington Post report found crumbling rooms with mold, mice and even cockroaches at some of the out-patient buildings.

Since then Congress and the White House have launched a series of investigations revealing not only poor living conditions but also a crippling bureaucracy, something specialist Schroeder experienced first hand.

"It's frustrating," explains Schroeder. "There's a lot of people that you need to go see. I always felt like you were slightly outside of the loop."

Eau Claire County Veterans Service Officer Cliff Sorenson, who visited Schroeder at Walter Reed this week, says that while he's disappointed by the revelations there, he's not surprised.

"We're completely overburdened with the returning veterans and the types of injuries and the extent of these injuries," Sorenson says. "I don't believe that we knew that that many veterans would be injured and that would be such a prolonged war."

Sorenson hopes, with the recent hearings and monitoring by groups like the American Legion, things will improve.

"We can't do less. We can't let them down," says Sorenson.

As for specialist Schroeder, she hopes to leave Walter Reed in the coming weeks and continue her care in Wisconsin.

President Bush, meanwhile, has named a bipartisan panel to investigate problems at the nations military and veterans hospitals.