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VA-DoD Program Serves Severely Disabled Combat Veterans

WASHINGTON, May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bolstering its commitment to improve services to those seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its federal partners have marked a milestone with establishment of a promised new office and deployment of workers to key military treatment facilities.

"The President vowed action on this key recommendation from his advisory commission on war veterans' needs, and today our new Federal Recovery Coordinator Program office is actively at work with dozens of severely injured patients around the country," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.

In coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services, the joint Federal Recovery Coordinator Program is designed to cut across bureaucratic lines and reach into the private sector as necessary to identify services needed for seriously wounded and ill service members, veterans and their families.

A key recommendation of a presidential commission chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, the recovery coordinators do not directly provide care, but coordinates federal health care teams and private community resources to achieve the personal and professional goals of an individualized "life map" or recovery plan developed with the service members or veterans who qualify for the federal recovery coordinator program.

At VA, which is coordinating the recovery coordinators' office, a director has been appointed, Ginnean Quisenberry, and six field staff members are actively working with 85 patients at three major military treatment facilities, with four additional coordinators expected to be appointed soon.

Currently the federal recovery coordinators are based at three military hospitals most likely to receive severely wounded service members evacuated from the combat theater: Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

A fourth site, Naval Medical Center San Diego, will receive two of the additional four field staff expected to be appointed soon.

Though initially based in military facilities, their work seamlessly extends into the patient's civilian life after discharge. Heeding President Bush's charge to ensure these severely injured persons do not get lost in the system, the coordinators actively link the veteran with public and private resources that will meet their rehabilitation needs.

Participating patients will include those with seriously debilitating burns, spinal cord injuries, amputations, visual impairments, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

While initially focused in early stages for current military hospital inpatients, the FRCP involvement is expected to be a lifetime commitment to veterans and their families. The coordinators will maintain contacts by phone, visits and e-mail.

When a veteran settles in a remote area, VA will be able to use multimedia systems that integrate video and audio teleconferencing so that veterans may visit a federal clinic or private center near their homes to link up with their case coordinator for a meeting.

The federal agencies are actively discussing ideas for ongoing improvements to the process, including monitoring demand patterns for possible adjustments to staffing as well as improved Web-based information for the service member adjusting to civilian life, such as links to a comprehensive guide to governmental and private-sector services integrated with their individual recovery plan and their own health records.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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