WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 3, 2007) - The Army's four-month-old "Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline" continues to find answers to Soldiers' and Families' medical questions, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The hotline provides a more direct way for wounded Soldiers and their Families to obtain information for medical issues that couldn't be resolved though local channels, Col. Edward Mason, the hotline's director, told online journalists and "bloggers."

"The intent of the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline is to ensure that Soldiers and their Families have access to every resource the Army has to offer," Col. Mason explained.

Senior Army leaders established the hotline March 19 in the wake of a series of news reports in February that spotlighted shortcomings in patient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.

Top Army leaders receive regular reports and briefings on hotline operations, the colonel pointed out.

The hotline wasn't created to bypass the chain of command, Col. Mason emphasized, noting that it was established to address and resolve Soldier and Family medical issues as expeditiously as possible.

The hotline is managed and operated by U.S. Army Human Resources Command, in Alexandria, Va. Since inception, the hotline has fielded more than 5,000 calls, involving more than 1,300 issues, Col. Mason said.

Callers' issues are staffed to subject-matter experts for resolution, Col. Mason explained. The hotline staff later contacts callers to ensure they've been helped. "Most of the time callers are very happy someone listened to them and that we were able to provide the information that they needed," he said.

Military veterans have raised about 28 percent of hotline issues, Col. Mason said. Veterans have been gratified to receive replies from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials, he said.

The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Col. Mason said. It is staffed by 50 Soldiers and 50 Contractors. The Contractors are former Soldiers or Family members. "They believe in the mission and have a passion for helping Soldiers and Families," Col. Mason said of the hotline's staff.

The Army's Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline can be accessed at 1-800-984-8523. Overseas customers can call the hotline via the Defense Switched Network, or DSN, at 312-328-0002.

(Gerry J. Gilmore writes for American Forces Press Service.)