By U.S. ArmySeptember 14, 2008
Thank you for your willingness to support those who have served.
Here are some concrete actions to take.
Firstly, thank a soldier or a veteran when you get an opportunity. It may be awkward, and the soldier/veteran will usually seem to be embarrassed, but deep down they appreciate it. And thank the family that supports them.
If you know a warrior in transition or veteran, cruise the WTC website to learn of the resources available that the soldier may not be aware of. We want every soldier to take advantage of every opportunity that is appropriate to them.
Visit or volunteer at a Warrior Transition Unit or military medical treatment facility to express your support. You can make contact through the WTU Ombudsman office (link attached). The ombudsman exists to support warriors in transition and can point you in the right direction. You do not need any special training other than a love of country to make a difference. Availability is more important than ability.
If you want to provide material support, click on the link for "America Supports You".
Make your voice heard. America's warriors will never be forgotten as long as the people of America make their opinions known. If you see something that needs improving, you can contact a WTU Ombudsman, there are newspaper opinion pages, magazine opinion pages, blogs, water-cooler conversations, and email chains among friends to push for change. Similarly, if you see something that needs praising, do it today. Unfortunately, it is easy for soldiers and veterans to feel they are fighting a losing battle because only the negative aspects seem to get published or aired. You are a counterweight against that.
Here are some facts that may prove useful:
What is Warrior Care'
Taking care of wounded, ill, or injured soldiers. In addition to healing their bodies, we work to mend their minds and spirits. The Army Chief of Staff has said that after fighting the war on terror, taking care of wounded, ill, and injured soldiers is the Army's number
one priority, and for this reason, the Army over the last couple years has completely changed the way it takes care of wounded, ill, and injured soldiers.
What is the Warrior Transition Command (WTC)'
The Army has transformed the way it provides care, services and support to all wounded, ill and injured soldiers (Warriors in Transition), whether Active, Reserve or National Guard. Our transitioning warriors required better attention and the Army Medical Action Plan (AMAP) began that transformation. The AMAP has evolved into the WTC, which coordinates strategy and efforts between Army and civilian resources in providing care to wounded, ill, and injured soldiers.
Who are these wounded, ill, or injured soldiers'
With combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, one can easily assume that all these soldiers have been wounded in contact with the enemy. That assumption is incorrect. As of November, 2008 there were about 10,500 soldiers (called Warriors in Transition, or WTs) in Warrior Transition Units, only 12%, or 1,200, are combat wounded. The balance are non-deployable because of long term illness or injury that prevents them from safely doing their job in a combat theater.
What sort of care is provided'
The Army is committed to enduring care for ALL wounded, ill, or injured
soldiers and their families. Enduring means care doesn't stop when a soldier leaves active duty. We continue to support them through the VA and other organizations. Care is holistic and includes healing the body, mind, and spirit. This encompasses medical, mental health, occupational counseling and retraining, and a host of other services for soldiers and their families. The Army Medicine website may give you an inkling of just how extensive this support is. Billions of dollars are being spent to keep our promise to soldiers.
What is the "Warrior Transition Unit" or WTU'
The WTU came about as a result of Army reforms in the wake of The Washington Post's 2007 coverage of the inadequate outpatient care of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
The Army assigned officers and noncommissioned officers to WTUs and gave them the sole responsibility to manage the medical care necessary for soldiers to recover and return to their units or to prepare them for transition to civilian life, bridging that return by working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
WTU leaders are assisted by nurse case managers, primary care managers, behavioral health specialists and physicians who manage medical evaluation board proceedings.
The first WTU came into being in April 2007. Currently, about 3,000 officers, noncommissioned officers and medical professionals are assigned full time to manage the medical care for the 10,500 soldiers assigned to 36 WTUs and nine community based warrior transition units (CBWTUs). CBWTUs allow Reservists and National Guardsman to heal closer to home.
Have there been changes to the warrior care and WTU process'
Yes. And there will continue to be changes, since the desire is to always incorporate the best and continuously improve our quality of holistic care. A recent example is modifying the criteria for assignment to a WTU. Previously, whether a soldier was wounded, ill, or injured, if their recovery to full duty status was to take longer than six months, they were assigned to a WTU automatically. This meant that a soldier who tore an ACL in their knee playing basketball was brought into a WTU alongside a soldier recovering from an IED. Clearly they have different needs. The original policy, meant to protect the health of all soldiers, had an unintended side effect of diluting care for the most seriously injured. So it was changed and entry into the WTU is screened by a board that includes medical and non-medical personnel. If a soldier's medical care and other needs can be coordinated by their existing unit, they will not be sent to a WTU.
We hear complaints from soldiers about how long things take. Why is that'
It is more important that the Army do right than the Army be fast. As long as a soldier is going through the rehabilitation and retraining process they are being taken care of and paid by the Army. We certainly have benchmarks and push for the best, most efficient system possible, but there are literally hundreds of factors and tasks that are considered in getting a soldier ready to either return to duty or transition to productive life as a civilian veteran, and this all takes time. Additionally, each case is unique. For example, one parent preferred that their injured son remain at Walter Reed on active duty for an additional nine months to receive specialized brain injury care. Normally this soldier would have been transferred to a VA hospital. It seems a little unfair that the Army grant the wish of this parent and others, only to be pilloried because some cases are taking more 90 days.
What has the Army done'
By December 2007, the AMAP evolved into the Warrior Care and Transition Office (WCTO), as the Army's unwavering commitment to never leave a Soldier on a battlefield...or lost in a bureaucracy.
Aca,!Ac Each Soldier and Family now has a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), with a military squad leader, nurse case manager, and primary care manager (physician).
Aca,!Ac 36 Warrior Transition Units, nine Community Based Health Care Organizations, and Soldier and Family Assistance Centers at each WTU/CBWTU.
Aca,!Ac Better facilities, and increased support with pay and benefits.
Aca,!Ac Advocates: an ombudsman, the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline, and more care-givers assigned to WTUs.
Aca,!Ac Mental Health initiatives to treat PTSD and TBI injuries.
Aca,!Ac Changed policy to give Warriors and Families more comfort and convenience.
Aca,!Ac Coordinated non-profit organization support to transitioning Soldiers and Families.
Aca,!Ac Soldier Family Management Specialists for Warriors with severe injuries, from the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2), who coordinate benefits, services and other assistance programs, for as long as needed.
Aca,!Ac Increased coordination among military and Veterans Affairs agencies, to share data and make more efficient the Soldier's transition to productive civilian life.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future'
The Warrior Care and Transition Office will provide treatment through the Comprehensive Transition Plan, healing the mind, body, heart and spirit with individualized attention to every part of the transitioning Warrior's life. With a revised Disability Evaluation system, the Army and Veterans Affairs will continue to improve information sharing and case management for departing veterans.
On July 2, 2008 the Army issued a directive empowering Installation commanders, military treatment facility commanders and WTU commanders to serve as the Triad of Leadership. This triad will determine along with the primary care manager and the Warrior in Transition about what is the best treatment plan for the Soldier. With the consensus of the Triad of Care and approval by the Triad of Leadership, Soldiers may be returned to his or her unit 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 will remain on active duty. The Army also called for all units to be fully staffed by mid-July and remain at 100 percent.
Why is it important to the Army'
Warriors in Transition are vital to the Army's mission capability. About half return to duty after they heal. This rate keeps the Army Strong, by retaining the best-qualified, most experienced Soldiers. The Army will never leave a fallen comrade!