The Bush administration ordered a review Tuesday of the care of wounded U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan after reports that many face neglect in the Army's medical system.
Democrats controlling Congress demanded a thorough investigation and promised legislation after a Washington Post series exposed deteriorating conditions for hundreds of outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the premier U.S. military hospital.
The controversy poses a public relations problem for President Bush, who has spoken often of America's debt to military personnel wounded in the wars, visited the hospital's wards and honored military amputees at White House functions.
The White House expressed concern at conditions for veterans after reports that many suffering physical and psychological problems lived in shoddy housing on or near the sprawling complex and faced long battles with Army bureaucracy.
"I can tell you that we believe that they deserve better," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. "Of course there's outrage that men and women who have been fighting have not received the outpatient care."
"We need to make sure that whatever problems there are get fixed," he added.
The Pentagon said an independent panel would look into outpatient care and administrative processes at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
"We are committed to improving the clinical and administrative processes, including improving temporary living conditions for our service members and their families," said Assistant Secretary of Defense William Winkenwerder Jr., the Pentagon's top doctor.
The Army and Navy had also begun their own reviews into the two medical centers, the Pentagon said in a statement.