New policies to manage expanding WTU population
July 3, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 3, 2008) Aca,!" The Army has announced plans to increase staffing at Warrior Transition Units, revise WTU admission and exit criteria and streamline Medical and Physical Evaluation Boards.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. announced the new measures to address the expanding WTU population Wednesday in a message to Army commanders.
Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition and the director of the Warrior Care and Transition Office, recently announced that the WTU population has doubled in the past year to more than 12,000, and that while these Soldiers are still receiving the best care possible, this has created some management challenges.
Recognizing that each WTU is different, the new policies emphasize the importance of local leadership. In fact, there will now be a triad of leadership, consisting of the senior commander on an installation, the commander of the medical-treatment facility and the WTU commander. The triad of leadership comes in addition to the triad of care of squad leader, nurse-case manager and primary-care manager.
Aca,!A"Secretary Geren and Gen. Casey are committed to taking care of our wounded, ill and injured warriors and doing whatever it takes to meet their needs. They also realize the best way to do this is to empower the triad of leadership with more management options for their wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. Ultimately this policy revision is about matching the provision of care to the needs of the Soldier. Local commanders are the right leaders to make the call,Aca,!A? said Cheek.
Local commanders now have until July 14 to ensure WTUs are fully staffed. According to Col. Jimmie Keenan, WTCO chief of staff, this means they will have to reassign squad leaders and platoon sergeants from other units to the WTU. The new cadre will have to be reassigned on orders and not borrowed from the other units. This will make them eligible for the new $375 special-duty pay, which Sgt. Maj. Ly Lac, WTCO sergeant major, said should start in the next few weeks.
With an online-training course, resident courses and mobile-training teams available to train the new cadre in the special skills they will need to care for sick and injured Soldiers, Cheek added that he expects them to be not only on board by July 14, but also trained by that date or shortly thereafter.
In turn, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (G-1) plans to backfill the new cadreAca,!a,,cs positions in their original units by October.
The Army Medical Command, Keenan continued, is also looking for civilian and contract nurse-case and primary-care managers to fill those positions, and is also considering retiree recalls.
Aca,!A"From our initial indications, there are many reserve nurse-case managers and also retiree nurses who have retired from the Army who are interested in still serving their country, and they are located near many of these posts, camps and stations where we have this requirement, so we think that we will be able to address that requirement,Aca,!A? Keenan said, adding that the medical personnel should all be in place by Oct. 16.
Part of the personnel shortage is because more Soldiers enter WTUs every month than exit and there is a backlog of Soldiers who either are almost done with their treatment and donAca,!a,,ct need as much care, or who are waiting for their Medical or Physical Evaluation Board results.
Aca,!A"With the consensus of the triad of care and approval by the triad of leadership, Soldiers may be returned to their units if they are making satisfactory progress with their comprehensive transition plan, if their medical needs can be managed by the Soldier and the unit, and they will remain on active duty,Aca,!A? said Cheek.
The Army also wants to ensure that only those Soldiers with the greatest medical needs enter WTUs, so it can focus on their care, Cheek said. Soldiers with more minor injuries or illnesses will be managed by their units and treated at the installation hospital.
Aca,!A"All wounded, ill or injured Soldiers will be evaluated by the triad of leadership, and those people with complex care needs will enter into the WTU. Those Soldiers requiring minimal care will be treated by the base hospital or clinic and be managed and monitored by their unit leadership. While the policy affects Soldiers entering into the program, those warriors currently assigned to a WTU can remain or be reassigned to his or her unit with the consensus of the triad of care and approval of the triad of leadership,Aca,!A? he continued, emphasizing the importance of insuring Soldiers get the best care, and the right care for them. He added that all reserve-component Soldiers will continue to be assigned to WTUs, regardless of the amount of care they need.
Army leaders have also directed commanders to look at the Army Physical Disability Evaluation System on their installations and make the MEB/PEB process easier for Soldiers.
Aca,!A"ThatAca,!a,,cs key because many Soldiers are frustrated still with the Medical Evaluation Board and the Physical Evaluation Board process,Aca,!A? said Keenan. Aca,!A"We know DOD has a pilot project that theyAca,!a,,cre working on for that, but what we have found is that there are also processes that we can control at our installations, that we can improve upon so Soldiers donAca,!a,,ct feel like theyAca,!a,,cre waiting around, because that can be very frustrating for a Soldier who wants to move on with their life and wants to make that transition.Aca,!A?
She added that those processes include evaluating the number of MEB providers and the current ratio of one to every 200 cases. They are also looking at the numbers of PEB liaison officers.
In addition, WTCO is looking at installations around the Army to determine which has the most efficient processes, so these can be institutionalized across the Army, Keenan said.