From Stars and Stripes:
Defense officials plan to have new counselors, charged with guiding wounded troops through the complex military and veterans health systems, in place and working with patients early next year.
Veterans support groups called the move an important first step, but said making sure the new recovery coordinators can fight on behalf of troops and families will be key in the success of the program.
“They have to be able to bust through the bureaucracy and have the authority to manage these cases,” said Jeremy Chwat, vice president for policy at the Wounded Warrior Project. “This will only be as good as the authority they are given.”
The new posts were one of the top recommendations from the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, put in place after complaints arose about the quality of troops’ care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier this year.
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
The coordinators are designed to be a “lifelong resource” for patients and their families, Davis said. Along with navigating Tricare paperwork and military chain-of-command issues, they’ll be responsible for coordinating post-military service care as well.
The initial hires will get between $89,000 and $124,000 a year, but candidates must have prior experience in health care management.
Annette McLeod, whose husband, Cpl. Wendell McLeod, was severely injured in Kuwait during a mission in July 2005, praised the creation of the new post. She testified before Congress earlier this year on her ongoing fights with defense and VA officials to get her husband’s medical care and military benefits in order.
“If they had someone in that job while my husband was at Walter Reed, I would have shed less tears and had less heartache,” she said.
“At the very least, I would have known I wasn’t alone. I was lost in that system, and I would talk to anyone willing to listen. They need someone who is able to navigate it, read the whole map and see where families need to go.”
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he hopes those numbers are expanded quickly.
“We have seen in the past what happens to VA employees when their workload becomes too great; people fall through the cracks,” he said. “Walter Reed and the many other facilities will need many more recovery coordinators to effectively implement the changes and provide the results that the commission is looking for.”
Officials will be seeking individuals with a background in health care administration, likely candidates already in the VA or military medical systems, Davis said.
Details on the DoD/VA agreement and specifics on the job itself:
Under this agreement the first group of federal recovery coordinators will be provided by VA in coordination with DoD and will be assigned to select military treatment facilities throughout the nation. They will support existing military service and veteran programs and care providers by coordinating needed services between DoD and VA and state and private and voluntary organizations, while serving as the ultimate life-long resource for wounded, ill and injured and their families who may have concerns about federal services or benefits.
Job announcements for the new positions have been posted, with the first 10 federal recovery coordinators scheduled to be hired by Dec. 1. Plans call for the new employees to be trained and in place at the military’s major health care facilities during January 2008. ...
The coordinators will have a background in social services or nursing and will work closely with the clinical and non-clinical case management teams to develop and execute federal individual recovery plans. Those plans, developed for the severely wounded, injured or ill, specify what services are needed across the continuum of care, from recovery through rehabilitation to reintegration to civilian life. The coordinators also will work closely with family members to take care of their services and needs.
The coordinators will have access to and support from the DoD’s under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness and VA’s under secretary for health, as well as the commanders of facilities where service members and veterans receive treatment.
These federal recovery coordinators are in addition to other programs that have been established by the military services.
Vacancy announcements available from the VA.