Joint Support Center to Be 'Safety Net' for Severely Injured
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 19, 2005 The Severely Injured Joint Support Operations Center was created to ensure servicemembers get "the care they deserve" and to "fill the gaps and seams" that may exist in individual service programs, a senior DoD official told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today.
John M. Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy was among a panel of officials who testified before the committee on progress being made to help the more than 10,000 servicemembers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan transition back into civilian life.
"We realize that there were gaps and there were seams between the services that should be provided ... and the ability of our programs to provide those services," he told the committee. "So the center is either an umbrella or safety net to ensure that we fill those gaps and seams."
As with similar service programs, DoD's center, dedicated in February in Arlington, Va., offers a range of resources for severely injured troops and their families.
Services include medical care and rehabilitation; education, training and job placement; personal mobility and functioning; transportation and workplace accommodations; personal counseling; and financial resources.
Although the Army's Disabled Soldier Support System, the Marine for Life Injured Support Program, the Air Force Palace HART program, and the Navy's Wounded Marines and Sailors Initiative offer similar assistance, Molino said the joint center will in part address any needs not met by those service programs, "to ensure that there is collaboration (and) coordination," he said.
"The services each stress different features of their individual assistance programs. They do some parts better than others. The joint support operations center enables us to share best practices," he explained.
In some cases, Molino said, the DoD center might become "the primary provider of a degree of support."
"For many, we are about easing the rehabilitation and the return to active service," he said. "For those whose service in uniform was truncated by the injuries they sustained, we want their transition into civilian life to be as free of complications as possible."
In addition, he said, the DoD center will help servicemembers reach "beyond the Department of Defense to other agencies, the nonprofit world and corporate America." It will also help solve immediate problems that require "systemic, policy or legislative solutions."
"If the bureaucracy must be fought, we will fight it," Molino told committee members. "If corporate America must be reminded of its obligation to help find these talented citizens a new career, we will remind its leaders."
Molino noted the DoD center will have a "care management" team of nurses and licensed social workers that will be available to answers questions via a toll-free number, (888) 774-1361, available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
He said the DoD center is also reaching out to find servicemembers that have "already passed through the system" before the center was established in order to ensure "their needs are being met."
Meanwhile, Molino said, the Defense Department is committed to doing all it can to help injured servicemembers. He added that the DoD center will remain in existence for "as long as it takes."
"Its structure may change; its roles may be modified, ... but our commitment to the severely injured and their families is solid and long-term," he said.