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Walter Reed flap puts retirement on hold

August 30, 2007
Navy Times

The Army will not process the retirement request of its former surgeon general until completing a review of last winter's Walter Reed patient care scandal, officials say.

That news, and confirmation that Kevin Kiley no longer wears the three stars he wore while serving as the Army's top medical officer, serve to refute the allegation that Army Secretary Pete Geren has kept Kiley on active duty so he can attain three years as a three-star general and retire at that rank, as the liberal Washington think tank Center for American Progress Fund alleged Tuesday.

In the March 12 press release announcing Kiley's resignation, the Army said his request had been submitted to Geren, then the acting secretary. But that request has not reached Geren's desk. According to Maj. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, it remains on hold in the Army's General Officer Management Office until the Army's Walter Reed review is complete.

"Secretary Geren has not received nor rejected Major General Kiley's retirement request," Edgecomb said.

Meanwhile, Kiley works on special projects for Army Medical Command, Edgecomb said.

In addition, since Kiley is, by law, once again a major general, he will not retire with three stars.

Kiley was appointed to the job Sept. 30, 2004, and served less than three years before submitting his resignation March 11. By federal law, officers above the grade of major or lieutenant commander must serve that long in an equal or higher grade to be eligible for voluntary retirement at their highest grade.

But as the law also requires, Kiley lost his third star 60 days after stepping down from the surgeon general slot and reverted to his permanent rank, according to Edgecomb, who said the actual date of record was March 20.

Kiley retains credit for the time he wore a three-star, and that time would apply if he were appointed to another three-star billet, Edgecomb said. But that's not likely to happen, since the job he left is the only three-star job in Army medicine. And while the three-year in-grade requirement can be waived, it would have to be approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates - highly unlikely, given that Gates cleared house after the Walter Reed problems broke.

While on active duty, Kiley, who's served just over 31 years, does continue to accrue time in service. But under current law, his next pay raise wouldn't occur until he passed the 34-year mark, Edgecomb said.

Kiley was one of three Army leaders who took the fall for the Walter Reed debacle, which followed published reports that recovering veterans being treated at the Washington, D.C., facility were stuck in run-down housing and faced long delays over administrative issues such as pay and benefits, lost records and medical evaluations. The news launched a wave of commissions, reports and bureaucratic overhaul.

Critics said Kiley had long known of the problems at Walter Reed but failed to take action to improve matters. His resignation followed the firings of Walter Reed commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, and Army Secretary Francis Harvey.

Harvey relieved Weightman on March 1 and selected Kiley as his temporary replacement. The following day, Harvey was forced out as Army secretary. On March 11, Kiley submitted a retirement request to Geren, then the acting secretary.

Initially, queries on Kiley's status produced an array of responses. Army officials weren't sure of his status, other than that he had at times continued to perform work for Army Medical Command, and couldn't identify his current job. One official thought he still wore the three-star rank he held as surgeon general; another thought he'd since reverted to the rank of major general.

While Kiley waits for action on his retirement request, he works on special projects assigned by senior Army leadership. The work, according to Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, chief of Army public affairs, has included projects in which Kiley was heavily vested, including a traumatic brain injury task force.

Kiley also served as an unofficial, unpaid adviser to HBO Films for an upcoming documentary, "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq," after leaving the surgeon general job, Cucolo said. While serving as the Army surgeon general, Kiley performed a similar role on HBO Films' 2006 documentary, "Baghdad ER," according to Cucolo.

The acting Army surgeon general is Kiley's former deputy, Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock.

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