Echoing concerns expressed last week by a presidential commission investigating reports of inadequate medical care for returning veterans, a 57%-majority of Americans think the recently publicized incidents at Walter Reed Hospital represent a common problem; just 18% say these problems are “unusual”. The belief that the problems go beyond the incidents at Walter Reed is much more widespread among Democrats and independents than among Republicans. Still, 43% of Republicans say the Walter Reed incidents represent a common problem with military medical care, compared with 33% who think the problems there were an aberration. For the most part, veterans’ opinions about these issues are not dramatically different from those of non-veterans, although veterans are much more attuned to the Walter Reed reports than are non-veterans. Fully 60% of male veterans have heard a lot about this story, compared with just 37% of men who are not veterans. However, male veterans do not apportion blame for the problems at Walter Reed any differently than do male non-veterans. And male veterans’ broader evaluations of the government’s performance in caring for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan also are similar to those of men who are not veterans. Last week a bipartisan presidential commission headed by former senator Robert J. Dole (R.-Kansas) and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala recommended a complete overhaul of the veterans disability system and urged President Bush to take quick action to upgrade medical services available to returning military personnel. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.