By Elizabeth M. LorgeOctober 19, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 22, 2007) - The Army is on phase four of the Army Medical Action plan and has staffed 65 percent of Warrior Transition Units across the globe to improve care for wounded Soldiers, Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker, the plan's director, told reporters at the Pentagon Oct. 19.
He added that the AMAP answers findings from both the Department of Defense's independent review group and the Dole-Shalala Commission, and regularly inspects each WTU to ensure they have the right number of cadre and skill sets to help Soldiers heal and either return to duty or transition to civilian life.
The Army is building 35 WTUs with 58 companies, each holding around 200 Soldiers. Each WTU has a squad leader for every 12 Soldiers and a platoon leader for every 36. Nurse case managers handle 18 patients, and primary care managers, who are doctors, coordinate specialists and medications for about 200 patients each, better than the industry standard of 1,200-2,000 patients.
Brig. Gen. Tucker said Soldiers volunteer to become WTU cadre all the time. He said it is a special calling and the cadre, who are being considered for special promotion consideration and special-duty pay, are carefully screened to ensure they have the necessary skills and compassion to help wounded Soldiers and interact with worried Families who may not understand or follow military protocol. Combat experience helps, he said, but these Soldiers really need a parent figure who understands that if they're late for formation, they can't do 50 push-ups.
"The Soldier's job is to heal," Brig. Gen. Tucker said. "That means they're going to their appointments, taking their therapies, doing their treatments as prescribed, taking their medications as prescribed. It's their job. The cadre's job is to ensure they set the conditions for the Soldier to do their job and we hold them accountable."
We want to "allow these Soldiers to be everything they want to be in life and not just focus on the bad leg, so to speak. We've got to keep their sights up, keep their aspirations high. One thing we want to prevent is a generation of terrific war veterans in wheelchairs on street corners somewhere in America," he said.
Brig. Gen. Tucker and his chief of staff, Col. Jimmie Keenan, said they fully support the Dole-Shalala Commission's findings and ability to reduce bureaucracy and increase cooperation with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Col. Keenan pointed out that Soldiers will only need one physical rating now, and Brig. Gen. Tucker said Soldiers will be able to remain on active duty for up to 90 days while their paperwork is processed by the VA. They won't get lost in the shuffle or wait months for benefits and disability checks.
In fact, the VA plans to place benefit counselors in the largest Soldier Family Assistance Centers, which are sized in conjunction with WTUs, according to Bianca Warner, human resources director at the Installation Management Command.
Another important aspect of the AMAP, SFACs are designed to provide all the social services Family members and Soldiers might need, she said. Spouses and parents may drop everything to be with their Soldier and need financial and childcare assistance, or help caring for their wounded warrior. SFACs can even help a Soldier's fiancAfAe or best friend find a place to stay and get on post.
According to Col. Keenan, the Army plans to spend $238 million renovating and building billeting and family quarters for the unprecedented numbers of wounded warriors returning from war.
She said that there are more than 70 amputees serving on active duty, nine of them in Iraq, and Brig. Gen. Tucker said that since World War II, the battlefield survival rate has increased by more than 70 percent.
According to Brig. Gen. Tucker, 40-50 agencies will come together next week in Landsdowne, Va., to evaluate AMAP's progress and next steps. He said the AMAP should be in phase five by January.