AW2 Symposium puts GI Bill transferability among top issues
July 7, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 7, 2010) -- Being able to transfer GI Bill benefits to dependents if medically retired rates high among concerns for wounded warriors.
That concern, and four others, were identified as priorities by the 65 severely wounded Soldiers, veterans, and family members who participated in the 2010 Army Wounded Warrior Program Symposium June 21-25 in San Antonio, Texas.
"The AW2 Symposium is about listening to those who have been through it and learning first-hand about ways we can continue to improve how we care for our most severely wounded, injured and ill Soldiers, veterans and their families -- then take action," said AW2 Program Director Col. Jim Rice. "These delegates were the voice of the Army's 7,000 severely wounded Soldiers and we listen very closely to what they say."
The top issues were chosen from more than 80 topics that were discussed in five focus groups: medical, careers, family, Soldier support and veteran affairs.
The issues prioritized as the top five at the AW2 symposium were:
Aca,!Ac Eligibility requirements for concurrent receipt of disability pay for medically retired servicemembers
Aca,!Ac Post 9/11 GI Bill transferability to dependents for all medically retired service members
Aca,!Ac Mandatory training of VA health-care staff on post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries
Aca,!Ac Transferring from temporary disability retirement to permanent disability retirement for wounded warriors
Aca,!Ac Benefits and entitlements information to wounded warrior primary caregivers
AW2 Soldiers, veterans and families submitted issues prior to the symposium for consideration. Issues were also submitted via the AW2 website at <a href="http://www.AW2.army.mil"target=_blank> www.AW2.army.mil.</a>
Lt. Col. Debra Cisney, AW2 operations officer, said, "It's not just a one-time shot," as she explained that website visitors can also check the status of issues online.
After the symposium the issues are forwarded on -- some to the Army Family Action Plan program and others to Veterans Affairs. Cisney said there were actually 11 issues discussed at the symposium.
Priorities identified at the AW2 Symposium will be submitted for consideration at the Army Family Action Plan conference in January. There will be 12 delegates from AW2 invited to the AFAP conference in January. At that conference, like at the AW2 Symposium, participants will prioritize their issues of concern.
Army-wide priorities identified at the AFAP conference will then move into the hands of Army senior leadership.
Bob Moore, a spokesman for Warrior Transition Command, said he's confident that some of the issues identified by the Soldiers at the AW2 symposium will pass muster at AFAP make it into the hands of the secretary of the Army and chief of staff.
"We've had an extraordinary success rate," Moore said. He also said Army senior leadership has a success rate of addressing the issues presented to them.
Issues raised at previous symposiums that have been resolved include expanded facilities to treat traumatic brain injuries and a stipend for primary caregivers of severely wounded servicemembers to the creation of the AW2 Community Support Network and a $10,000 increase in VA housing benefits.
AW2 Symposium delegate and veteran, Matt Staton, said, "I can leave this event knowing that my voice, and the voices of the Soldiers I represent, will be heard. "The AW2 Symposium is an excellent process for the Army to listen and to improve warrior care. All the delegates leave with the knowledge that a lot of people in the Army are striving to improve the care we wounded warriors receive."
For the last six years, AW2 has served the most severely wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers, veterans, and their Families. AW2 assists and advocates for them as part of the Army's Warrior Transition Command.
(An AW2 press release contributed to this article.)