WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday announced a sweeping review of the Pentagon’s health-care facilities spurred by concern that it could be suffering from strains similar to those afflicting the Department of Veterans Affairs system.
Officials said the review, which they expect to take 90 days, was not triggered by the type of lapses and whistleblower allegations that have thrust several VA hospitals around the country into a politically charged scandal.
As outrage spread over reports that several patients at a VA facility in Phoenix died waiting for care Hagel became concerned about the state of the health-care network that treats the active-duty force, his spokesman said.
“It’s clearly within the context of what he’s watching at the VA,” the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement. “He wants to know what we don’t know. He doesn’t want to wait for similar allegations to appear with the active military healthcare system.”
Kirby said the review was unrelated to the recent suspension of the commander of Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, one of the Army’s largest medical facilities. The ouster of the head of that facility, Col. Steven Brewster, was reported Tuesday on the website of The New York Times.
Kirby said Hagel received a preliminary briefing on the state of the Defense Department’s health-care system this week. He is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning with senior officials who will play a role in the assessment.
In the statement released late Tuesday, Kirby said the review will “examine whether current access to care meets the department standards. It will also examine the safety and quality of the care” extended to military members, Defense Department civilians and their dependents.