<--GAT-->

DoD: Wounded Warrior Programs Still Needed Despite Combat Wind Down

by U.S. Medicine

March 9, 2015

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON – While military wounded warrior programs are caring for fewer combat-wounded troops than at the height of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, DoD leaders assured lawmakers that their mission to support troops remains a top priority.

ED Rykard (left), chief of tactical gaming for the Joint Multinational Simulations Center  trains Staff Sgt. Ely Chagoya (right) on gaming simulations administration. The Career and Education Readiness program aims to partner Warrior Transition Unit soldiers who are separating or re-classing with civilian and military employers to build or strengthen their skill sets in preparation for transition. Army photo by Capt. Cecilia Renee Clark

ED Rykard (left), chief of tactical gaming for the Joint Multinational Simulations Center trains Staff Sgt. Ely Chagoya (right) on gaming simulations administration. The Career and Education Readiness program aims to partner Warrior Transition Unit soldiers who are separating or re-classing with civilian and military employers to build or strengthen their skill sets in preparation for transition. Army photo by Capt. Cecilia Renee Clark

“We are resolute in ensuring all of the needs of our wounded warriors are met and they have the best available care and administrative management while being treated with dignity and respect,” said James Rodriguez, deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Warrior Care Policy.

Rodriguez, as well as leaders from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, testified about their programs before the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. The programs are geared to provide resources and support to seriously wounded, injured and ill troops as they recover, as well as any help they might need to transition to VA care or to their communities.

Commander of the Warrior Transition Command, Army Col. Chris Toner, told lawmakers that, when it comes to the Army, the total population in Warrior Transition Units (WTU) has fallen from a high of 12,451 in June 2008 to 4,139.

Of the 4,139 soldiers, 81% have previously deployed, but Toner pointed out that their conditions are not necessarily related to deployment. Nearly half the soldiers currently in the program have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another behavioral health diagnosis, Toner said.

“Though the warrior care and transition program is seeing fewer wounded and more ill and injured soldiers, the WTU population remains complex, and the need for the Army to continue to resource and provide centralized oversight, guidance and advocacy for this population will remain an enduring requirement,” he said.

Oversight Questioned

Meanwhile, lawmakers expressed concern about the oversight of these programs. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Joe Heck, DO, (R-NV) and other lawmakers asked how the Army is responding to news reports in Texas about the mistreatment of troops in WTUs there. The news reports were based on Army documents detailing the complaints of troops.

“The concerns were largely associated with disrespect, harassment, belittlement of soldiers within the three WTUs in Texas,” Toner acknowledged.

Toner said, “those conditions existed” from 2009-2013 but now have been addressed, adding he is now confident that “the program, policies and procedures in place now have the program going in the right direction.”

Rodriguez also told lawmakers that, to ensure the quality of the WTU programs, DoD has implemented site-assistance visits. In 2014, 27 visits were conducted to assess compliance with DoD policy, including the uniformity and effectiveness of care coordination for recovering troops and their families and caregivers provided by recovery care coordinators, Army wounded warrior advocates and Navy nonmedical case managers.

“During these site-assist visits, we reviewed the service’s policies on care, transition programs as well as care management. We wanted to ensure that they have a process in place that meets all the standards set forth in the policy,” he said.

Care and Transition

Rep. Paul Cook, (R-CA), suggested that DoD appears to do a better job than VA of meeting the needs of recovering troops.

“Why is it working for you, and not the VA?” he asked.

None of the DoD leaders testifying directly answered the question, instead telling lawmakers what has worked for their programs. Navy Capt. Brent Breining pointed out that the Navy’s Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program, which he directs, has an on-staff VA federal recovery coordinator available when troops in the DoD program transition to VA and need help.

“We are an extra line of defense for that servicemember if there are any issues,” Breining said.

On another matter, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said lawmakers would like to see troops have the option to be treated by hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT), which involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber. DoD has been conducting studies regarding the treatment’s effectiveness in relieving chronic symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury, though results so far generally have been inconclusive.

“It has been a frustration for many of us in the Congress, in both the House and Senate, that we continue to get roadblocks … for getting this treatment approved,” he said.

Jones said he hopes the committee will hold a hearing on treatment programs in the future, including HBOT.

 


Comments are closed here.


Related Articles

Democrats Look at VA Role of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Associates

WASHINGTON—Congress announced last month that it will be opening an investigation into alleged improper influence by three civilian consultants to President Donald Trump on administration of the VA. The three men—Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel... View Article

Legislators Question Whether VA Can Efficiently Implement Mission Act

Six months after President Donald Trump signed the VA MISSION Act–a bill that will, among other things, streamline and expand veterans’ access to non-VA healthcare providers–many legislators are concerned whether VA has the ability to implement the extensive provisions in the bill without the painful speed bumps experienced with past legislation.


U.S. Medicine Recommends


More From department of defense dod

Department of Defense (DoD)

DoD acknowledges its medical adverse event reporting is ‘unreliable’

The process for tracking the DoD’s most serious adverse medical events is “fragmented, impeding the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) ability to ensure that it has received complete information,” according to a new review.

Department of Defense (DoD)

Automation Speeds Results and Increases Accuracy for Point-of-Care Testing at Walter Reed NMMC

With a long history of point of care testing at both of its predecessor organizations, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) laboratory services staff were keenly aware of the advantages of using portable testing devices to obtain rapid patient assessments.

Department of Defense (DoD)

High Rate of Pectoralis Tears Among Deployed Servicemembers Lifting Weights

Lifting weights is one way servicemembers keep in peak physical condition during deployment.

Department of Defense (DoD)

DoD Study Finds That Type 2 Diabetes Increases Breast Cancer Mortality

Having Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM-2) increases mortality risk in breast cancer patients, regardless of whether diabetes was diagnosed before or after breast cancer, according to a recent study.

Department of Defense (DoD)

Now Hear This: Otolaryngologist Leads Effort to Prevent Auditory Issues

Among those who are exposed to combat, it’s the weapons fire that does it. In the Navy, it’s the noise levels in engine rooms and on the decks of carriers.

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up