Attrition: Hot Line For The Wounded


September 29, 2008:For troops recovering from combat wounds, the U.S. Department of Defense has established a 24 hour hot-line, a toll free number (800-342-9647, or via email to [email protected]) that connects the troops, or their families, to someone who can deal with administrative, treatment, benefits or legal problems. This is the latest effort by the Pentagon to deal with troops spending months recovering from wounds, and encountering problems with the bureaucracy.

For example, over the last few years, the U.S. Army has established 32 Warrior Transition Units (WTUs). These look after the needs of soldiers requiring six months or more of medical care before they are well again. Most have combat injuries, but there are many with accident injuries, and a few recovering from diseases contracted overseas. Each WTU is staffed with a few officers and 15-20 NCOs (platoon sergeants and squad leaders). In addition there are nurses and other medical professionals. The WTU staff sees to it that those under their care receive the proper medical treatment on a timely and sufficient basis. The WTU deals with any paperwork problems, helping the patients cope with the many bureaucracies that come out of the woodwork. The WTU NCOs have the hardest jobs, because they are often combat veterans themselves, relate well to the patients, and they are the main problem solvers. This is particularly useful for WTU patients who are reservists, and are not familiar with a lot of the active duty paperwork and procedures. Because of the stress placed on the WTU NCOs, they will be special-duty pay of $225 a month. Sort of like combat pay, but given to any troops in particularly difficult jobs.

Last year, the U.S. Marine Corps established the Wounded Warrior Regiment. There are two battalions, one on the east coast and one on the west coast. This effort grows out of a marine innovation from 2006, of assigning wounded marines to units that could help them recover. That was simple solution for problems some wounded marines, recuperating in the United States, had in getting bureaucratic problems fixed. In the past, marines wounded overseas, and sent to hospitals back home for extended treatment, were still considered part of their units back in the combat zone. Two years ago, the rules were changed to make the wounded marines temporarily assigned to the hospital they were in, even thoughthey still were, technically, members of their combat unit overseas. This didn't solve the problem, so Marines were allowed to temporarily join any nearby marine unit (active duty or reserve). This made it a lot easier to solve any problems with pay or benefits. Previously, such problems required communication with the marine unit overseas. Even with email and cheap phone calls, this was quite a chore, and a bit much for a recuperating marine to handle. By transferring these administrative chores to a nearby unit, it was much easier to clear up problems. About a thousand marines were eligible for this new procedure. Now, the newWounded Warrior Regiment will have a staff that specializes in the kinds of administrative problems wounded marines encounter, and quick solutions for all marines that need them.




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