Hotline helps wounded Soldiers, Families resolve issues
September 18, 2009
By L.A. Shively
- The Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline continues to offer wounded and injured Soldiers and Families help.
- Since its inception the hotline has answered over 21,000 calls from all 50 states and foreign countries.
- Soldiers and Families wishing to use the hotline to address issues dial 1-800-984-8523.
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Originally opened March 19, 2007, the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline continues to offer wounded and injured Soldiers and Family members a way to resolve medical issues and channel information directly to senior Army leadership in order to improve Army services for the medical needs of Soldiers and their Families.
"The hotline was stood up in direct response to the Washington Post article on the problems at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center)," said Lt. Col. Richard Matuszak, chief of the Wounded Soldier Family Hotline located in Alexandria, Va.
The article, published in February 2007, described deteriorated living quarters for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans wounded in combat, treated then released from the hospital, and waiting for further treatment, discharge, or return to active duty.
He explained that one of the solutions to ensure problems described in the article did not recur was to establish the hotline and that the Army responded and corrected a lot of the issues.
Matuszak said the hotline was open 24 hours, seven days a week and has trained personnel answering the phone around the clock.
"We're addressing any and all concerns that any Soldier or Family member has with medical care and we do address any other concerns they have as well."
Matuszak explained that the function of hotline personnel is as facilitators rather than as case managers and that problem resolution is the main focus.
"We will take that information and put them in contact with the most appropriate agency within the federal government or community sector to properly address their concerns," he said.
According to Matuszak, since its inception the hotline has answered over 21,000 calls from all 50 states and over a dozen foreign countries. He said calls have come from every rank, private to general, and through various Army commands or agencies, resolved over 3500 issues.
He explained that roughly half of the calls came from active-duty Soldiers with the remainder divided almost equally between Army National Guard, Army Reserve and veterans or were from others.
Five categories of issues were identified in declining order of incidence: medical, personnel, chain of command, finance and legal. He explained that medical and personnel issues account for approximately 75 percent of calls.
The hotline has also provided information on various Army, Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, public or private agencies and related programs to over 13,000 callers Matuszak said.
Hotline staff has interceded over 65 times when a caller indicated concern that a Soldier was considering harm to self or others.
"The Secretary of the Army was looking for a means that was easily accessible to the Soldier," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Ross, officer in charge, Medical Command Medical Assistance Group Ombudsman Program.
Ross said the hotline was designed for today's Soldiers and Families who are used to talking on the phone and would feel comfortable with the resource.
Soldiers and Families wishing to use the hotline to address issues dial 1-800-984-8523, the stateside DSN is 328-0002, and the overseas DSN is 312-328-0002.