DoD, VA Committed to Wounded Warrior Care
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 22, 2010 Caring for wounded and injured servicemembers is among the highest priorities within the Defense Department, the acting deputy assistant defense secretary for clinical and program policy told Congress today.
Jack Smith, a medical doctor, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, providing insight on the care severely injured military members receive after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the 2.1 million servicemembers who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 40,000 were wounded in action. More than 60,000 were evacuated for medical care.
“Beyond waging the wars we are in, treatment of our wounded, their continuing care and eventual reintegration into everyday life is my highest priority,” Smith said, quoting Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
“We who work in military medicine completely agree with Secretary Gates,” Smith said in his written testimony.
Smith outlined the various types of medical care available for injured and recovering war veterans. He noted the Defense Department’s establishment of specialty centers of excellence, as well as the department’s ongoing partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department.
Key components of military health care for severely injured troops include three amputee care centers, the Brooke Army Medical Center Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, he said.
Smith also noted the Military Advanced Training Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center; and the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care Center at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
Each of these facilities offers state-of-the-art care in orthopedic surgery, reconstructive plastic surgery, prosthetic care and treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, he said.
“DoD has long been a leader in research on improved treatments for traumatic injuries,” Smith said.
Also, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury serves as a coordinating hub for psychological and mental health activities, which validates the Defense Department as a leader in the field, he said.
The Defense Department also has become a leader in vision, hearing and spinal cord care, Smith said.
Providers at these facilities treat and assist injured servicemembers to function as close to normal as possible, improving their overall quality of life, he said.
The Defense Department also is proud of its family support efforts, Smith said. Wounded servicemembers unable to return to duty, he said, may qualify for non-medical support through the Recovery Coordination Program. The program provides resources to severely injured troops, veterans and their families to determine the best road to recovery, assisting them with milestones and how to meet them, he added.
“The [program] makes sure the plan meets the servicemember’s and the family’s goals, and works with the individual’s commander to coordinate the services included in the plan,” Smith explained.
“We encourage servicemembers and families to seek help from these programs to ensure to most complete recovery possible,” he added.
Smith also noted Military One Source and the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy wounded warrior programs, which assist and advocate for ill and injured troops, veterans and their families.
The department’s partnership with VA, he said, ensures that severely wounded troops and their families continue receiving the care they need after they leave the military.
“DoD and VA are working together to improve their coordination of medical care for servicemembers and veterans,” Smith said. “The key objectives of our coordinated transition efforts include ensuring continuity of medical care … [and] providing clear and comprehensive information about available support programs to servicemembers and their families.
“We are committed to continued and more expansive collaboration and coordination with VA,” he continued, “because we believe it is essential to our ability to provide servicemembers, veterans, and their families with consistently superior medical care and support services as well as continuity of care in the most comprehensive way.”