By Heike HasenauerApril 24, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 24, 2007) - In 34 days since the launch of the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline last month, 1,357 callers have dialed in to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command's call center in Alexandria, Va., where 120 operators man the phones in shifts to support a 24-7 operation, said Col. Edward Mason, hotline director.
Of those calls, 590 were identified as "issues," Col. Mason said. The remaining calls were for such information as a point of contact at a military medical facility.
Of the issues, 308 were medical-related, Col. Mason added. They ranged from requests for medical-board re-evaluations to "I need an appointment with someone at the Veterans Administration." Other calls pertained to finance, personnel, law and an "other" category.
"None of the phone calls have gone without an initial response to the caller beyond our three-business-day standard," Col. Mason said.
The hotline was established primarily to provide operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veterans and their Family Members a way to resolve medical concerns by channeling those concerns directly to Army leaders, said Maj. Gen. Sean Byrne, HRC commander.
Veterans of Desert Storm, the Vietnam War and the Korean War have also used the hotline. Overall, 31 percent of the calls deemed to be issues concerned veterans, Col. Mason said.
"We haven't turned away a single request for support," he added.
Family Members and friends call, too, said Col. Bob Clark, deputy director for hotline operations at the HRC. "One concerned friend called in about a homeless veteran. Predominantly, it's Soldiers and spouses who call the hotline, followed by parents, relatives and friends."
The HRC hotline staff provides daily reports to the director of the Army staff, Col. Mason said. Upon learning that 31 percent of issues dealt with veterans, "we drafted a letter that the secretary of the Army sent to the director of the Veterans Administration, requesting the VA's assistance in addressing and resolving veterans' concerns."
"Our primary purpose is to gather information to determine who can best assist the caller. Then commanders' staffs and representatives get involved," Col. Mason said.
The success of the hotline can be measured by good-news stories, one of which involves a Soldier who was initially told that his inflammation of the lungs was not related to combat in Iraq. The Soldier called the hotline to request further review of his condition and status. Doctors have since determined that the Soldier's condition was, in fact, aggravated by inhalation of sulfur fumes, to which he was exposed in Iraq.
The findings will affect the Soldier for the rest of his life, as he can expect to receive financial compensation and continued medical care, Col. Mason said.
To access the hotline, call (800) 984-8523.
(Heike Hasenauer is the senior editor of "Soldiers" magazine.)