By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 9, 2008 - The Defense Department, in conjunction with the military services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, has created a framework to help wounded, ill and injured servicemembers not only survive, but also thrive as they transition from military service back into their communities. "We want them to really not only survive their injuries, but now thrive in what's called oftentimes 'the new normal,'" said Lynda C. Davis, DoD lead for case/care management reform for wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and their families. "We've been able to, jointly with the services and [Veterans Affairs], develop a framework to make that happen."
For the past 16 months, the Wounded, Ill and Injured Senior Oversight Committee worked to create a program to help wounded, injured or ill servicemembers and their families develop what Davis referred to as a "life plan." It goes beyond medical care to address financial and housing needs, transportation, education and employment, and even spiritual desires and needs, she said.
This life plan is one of four pieces to help servicemembers and their families successfully reintegrate into civilian life.
Another piece will provide severely injured servicemembers and their families with a recovery coordinator to oversee the development of the recovery plan and delivery of service and resources. In addition, servicemembers and their families will be assigned a recovery team that will work directly with them to ensure responsive, quality care, Davis said.
The fourth cornerstone will be unveiled in November during military Family Month and Warrior Care Month.
"It's a 'Yellow Book' that will be available throughout the country online so that anybody serving or supporting the wounded, ill, or injured servicemember or their family will have access to services and resources [offered through] federal government, state and local, county, not-for-profit, academic and philanthropic [sources]," she explained.
These four facets of the "Uniform Cornerstones of Care Coordination" work in a 10-step process. It begins with a screening phase and continues through a review phase.
"[The Uniform Steps of Care Coordination] helps us identify serious or severely injured servicemembers who need these kinds of support," she said. "It prepares people for the transition, and then it continues to review and stays in contact to make sure that their personal and professional goals are met."
Those pieces already are in place, but family support also is crucial to the healing process, Davis said. To make sure it's part of the plan, the "Summit on Consistent Best Practices for Support of Families of Fallen and Wounded, Ill and Injured Service Members," will be held Oct. 20 at the Pentagon from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
About 300 people are expected to attend the summit, including family members, warrior and family support programs, and veteran service organizations.
"At the summit, we will have panels of family members, ... and they will be discussing their experiences in the different phases of recovery," Davis said. "Then we will also be highlighting some programs that are really nominated by the families that are best practices."
Family members will share some of the programs they see as model programs in a panel format that morning. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will have lunch with the group before he addresses them.
"In the afternoon, we're going to concentrate really on families of the fallen," Davis said. "They will also have some best practice programs that they've been able to nominate. We'll wrap it up with another announcement, which is another Web site that's more narrow in scope. It's in response to a requirement from the National Defense Authorization Act, ... which required us to create this Wounded Warrior Resource Center Web site."
The site's goal is to focus on giving families and servicemembers a conduit to ask questions or give input on their experiences working with things like health care services, military facilities and benefits and compensation. A call center already has been established in response to this requirement, Davis said. The number is 800-342-9647.
Though the summit is being held at the Pentagon, servicemembers and their families around the world will be able to watch via live webcast on the Pentagon Channel's Web site, www.pentagonchannel.mil. They also can ask questions as they're watching by e-mailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org during the summit. This e-mail address will be valid only on the day of the summit from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Davis said.