WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 14, 2008) -- Improving Soldier and Family quality of life is a continuing effort for the Warrior Care and Transition Office. As part of that progress the Army announced changes to warrior care that will streamline the program, improve procedures already in place and require all Warrior Transition Units to be fully staffed by July 14.

Col. Jimmie Keenan, chief of staff of the Warrior Care and Transition Office, discussed the improvements to the program in a July 8 roundtable with on-line journalists. Keenan has been with the Warrior Care and Transition Office since its inception in April 2007.

"We've gone from about 6,000 warriors in transition today," said Kennan. "And with that growth, we have met with the chief of staff of the Army, the secretary of the Army and the vice chief of staff of the Army, as well as sergeant major of the Army Preston, and we've looked at where we need to go and what we need to do."

One of the changes that has already been implemented is increasing the special duty assignment pay for squad leaders and platoon sergeants serving in WTUs. The additional pay amount was increased from $225 to $375, making it commensurate with the special duty assignment pay given to drill sergeants.

"The reason it's $375 is because when we looked at the requirements that these squad leaders and platoon sergeants have to these warriors in transition and their families, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it's commensurate with a drill sergeant," said Keenan. "And so we set it at that same amount of $375 because of the experience level that's required."

Entry and exit criteria are also being adjusted in order to improve the quality of care for Soldiers in WTUs. Senior commanders have been empowered to look at Soldiers being assigned to WTUs to ensure that they require the additional care and complex case management provided.

The exit criteria has been adjusted to highlight the triad of care and triad of leadership which are a hallmark of the WTU program. The nurse case manager, primary care manager and squad leader will work with the Soldier and his or her family to initiate the transition out of the program, said Keenan.

WTUs will also review of best-practices designed to take the most successful components of units across the nation and use them to streamline and improve care across the board. Continuing to improve the quality of care for Soldiers' families is also key, said Keenan.

"When a Soldier's injured, ill or wounded, it affects and it injures that family, too," said Keenan. "So we have to include them in the healing process, and we have to get them to a point where they learn to function and make that transition too, because they have to set to a new normal. Normal's not going to look the same anymore in many cases for these Soldiers and their family."

To better help families, Soldier Family Assistance Centers were established together with WTUs to provide counseling, free child care, transportation to the location of their Soldier and assistance with housing and other details that come up along the way.

COL Keenan closed by addressing the need to recruit additional Soldiers and civilians to accept positions with the Warrior Care and Transition Office. Retired Soldiers interested in becoming retiree recalls into the program are encouraged to do so, said Keenan. Civilian positions are also available.

"I encourage folks that if they want to help our warriors in transition, that this would be a great venue, if they have those skill sets, to look at applying for those types of positions," said Keenan.

Individuals with questions or concerns about wounded warrior care are encouraged to call the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline at 1-800-984-8523.