Late Breaking News
Advocate Returns to the Army to Support Soldiers Needing Medical Care
- Categorized in: September 2011
WASHINGTON — Clyde Foster may have retired from the Army after 26 years of service, but, as an Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) advocate, his service to his country has not stopped.
“I have always been interested in helping people,” he said. “I didn’t realize I would end up where I am today doing this, but I look at this as a continuation of my service to this nation.”
Foster worked in field artillery in the Army prior to retiring in 1999. Nowadays, he is based in the warrior transition clinic on the 4th floor of the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, NC, where he serves severely injured, wounded and ill soldiers, veterans and their families as they work through their recovery.
Soldiers in the Army who require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management are placed in Warrior Transition Units at military-treatment facilities (MTF). The most severely wounded soldiers and veterans who suffer from qualified injuries or illness incurred in the line of duty after September 10, 2001, are then assigned to the AW2.
Those who qualify for AW2 must receive or are expected to receive an Army Physical Disability Evaluation System rating of 30% or greater in one or more specific category such as blindness, loss of limb, severe burns, traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), spinal-cord injury, deafness, permanent disfigurement or fatal incurable diseases, among other conditions. The program also includes soldiers who receive an Army Physical Disability Evaluation System combined rating of 50% or greater for conditions that are combat-related.
Each soldier is assigned an AW2 advocate who provides nonclinical support. These advocates are located at military treatment facilities, most Army installations, VA Polytrauma Centers and VA facilities.
A big part of what the AW2 advocates do is collaborate with the “triad of care,” set up to coordinate the medical and nonmedical care the soldier is receiving. The triad of care includes the primary care manager, nurse case manager and squad leader.
Advocates help the injured soldiers and families deal with issues that come up as they move through the system of care and connect them with resources, benefits and information.
That could include providing benefit information to the family, career and education assistance, life coaching, helping with questions regarding the physical evaluation board and medical evaluation board and coordinating with other agencies for assistance. The goal is to help move the wounded warriors to greater independence as they deal with the injury and transition either back to duty or into the civilian community.
“A lot of times, when you have been severely injured, that can be hard for soldiers to come to grips with,” said Foster. “We try to remove the obstacles that get in the way of their recovery so they can focus on the recovery.”
Foster said that, after he retired from the military, he went back to school to receive a bachelor’s degree in sociology and then a master’s in social work at Fayetteville State University. That led him to the AW2 program in August 2006.
“I have always had this advocacy thing about me, and I have always been interested in helping people,” he said.
Foster said he had not interacted much with the military medical system during his military career, other than for the normal “bumps and bruises and normal preventive measures,” but is enjoying working in the healthcare setting.
While having a military background is not necessary for his job, it has come in handy in connecting with troops.
“It takes time to build that trust that you really need to get that information you need to really help someone,” he said. “Having that military background brings a common connection to that population that I serve.”