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Mr. Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Warrior Care Policy, speaks to families and caregivers at Military Caregivers Recognition Luncheon at Fort Belvoir
One of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) highest priorities is ensuring the Nation’s wounded, ill, and injured recovering Service members, their families, and caregivers receive the support they need for recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The great success we have seen over the last fourteen years of war in saving lives on the battlefield has also driven the need for the Department to provide additional services, many of those directly relate to the non-medical support needed by our Service members and their families.
As the Department resizes to a new steady state in terms of force levels, military departments must institutionalize warrior care policies and programs that maintain the gains achieved and incorporate best practices learned over the last decade of war. These policies and programs must be adaptable and flexible to meet the requirements for a new, steady state environment, as well as remain responsive to larger commitments required in the event of future conflicts.
In April the U.S. Army and its Warrior Care and Transition Program announced the latest phase of consolidation of Warrior Transition Units (WTUs), designed to treat wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers requiring at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management. As 10 of 25 WTUs are scheduled to go inactive by August 2016, wounded, ill, and injured care remains a priority for the Army, as well as for the Department of Defense.
Over the past year, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of Soldiers receiving support in WTUs, going from 7,000 to approximately 3,800. This is due to the declining number of deployed troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, dramatically reducing the number of Soldiers who become wounded in combat. At the same time, the Army recognizes that illness and injury will remain common, and thus anticipate supporting a steady population of nearly 3,000 Soldiers who continue to require complex medical care and non-medical case management services at WTUs.
The Army remains committed: reducing the number of treatment units currently available will not impact the quality of care offered to Service members, families, and caregivers. Instead, it will provide the opportunity to ensure standardization of WTU operations across the country, contributing to more effective and efficient operations and care. Similarly, the Office of Warrior Care Policy, DoD’s policy, oversight, and advocacy office for wounded, ill, and injured care, remains committed to the mission of proactively supporting wounded, ill, and injured Service members in their recovery and reintegration or transition to civilian life.