Operation Warfighter and Education and Employment Initiative coordinators and coordinators from the Military Caregiver Peer Forum Initiative participated in a two-day training and discussion session in Arlington, Virginia, April 30.
For the 28 coordinators who traveled from their regions to attend the training it was an atypical week, but it was also an important opportunity to discuss the future of recovery coordination, define measures of success, and better understand the avenues for collaboration within the Military Health System.
A typical week for regional coordinators working in support of the Defense Health Agency’s Recovery Coordination Program consists of meeting with service members and their families, conducting briefings to military and private sector leaders, and working hand-in-hand with medical and non-medical case managers to help service members and their caregivers through the recovery, rehabilitation, and transition or reintegration process. Through supporting education, employment, internship and caregiver programs, regional coordinators work on the front lines of care coordination.
"As regional coordinators, you are the ones in the field. You impact lives on a daily basis," said Dr. Paul Cordts, Deputy Assistant Director, Medical Affairs who introduced the training session and set the discussion goals. "We want to provide you with the tools to continue to assist our wounded, ill and injured service members and their caregivers in their times of need, as best as possible."
Focused on better understanding and solving the challenges today’s service members and caregivers face during recovery and transition, Cordts outlined the importance of maintaining customized solutions for the most severely ill and injured service members and their caregivers.
"Programs and organizations that help to build relationships on behalf of service members and caregivers are critical," Cordts said. "However, we also must arm our service members with the ability to talk confidently about themselves and their experience."
As an example of successful partnership building on behalf of service members, Cordts referenced the work done through the Education and Employment Initiative. The Education and Employment Initiative coordinators identify more than 900 employers and more than 1,400 suitable employment opportunities for transitioning service members each month. As a result, coordinators produce more than 200 possible employment matches for transitioning service members on a monthly basis—and then help service members develop strong resumes by translating their military skills to the civilian workplace.
"What we do is unique," said Biff Mayo, a retired Army and Special Forces colonel, one of two Operation Warfighter and Education and Employment Initiative coordinators for the Southeast region. "We help service members who have had a significant change in their lives."
Those statistics are a point of pride for Denise Williams, the Education and Employment Initiative coordinator for the National Capital Region.
“As a military spouse I have a true passion for working with service members to ensure they have the resources needed to transition to civilian life,” Williams said.
For Lisa Goenen, Mayo’s counterpart in the Southeast region and a retired Army first sergeant, the stakes are personal and the positive outcomes are fulfilling.
“This job makes me feel good,” Goenen said. “I go to bed at night knowing I positively impacted someone’s day.”
As the training and discussion session progressed into working groups, those coordinators supporting the military caregiver community discussed why providing focused support for caregivers remains critical. The group noted that many caregivers are overwhelmed with information and deal with feelings of isolation, as well as caregiver fatigue.
“We are facilitators of hope,” said Jamela Davis, the Peer Support Coordinator for region seven and based at Fort Hood, Texas. “We give them that light at the end of the tunnel. We’re that someone to turn to.”
Tonia Russell, the Peer Support Coordinator for region one and based at Fort Drum, New York described how her experience as a caregiver helps her better understand the issues caregivers face.
“While my husband was going through his medical board, he was deeply depressed,” Russell said. “I just didn’t want anyone to ever go through what I went through during that process.”
The Recovery Coordination Program standardizes non-medical care provided to wounded, ill and injured service members across the military departments by streamlining the way care and support is delivered and tracked. For more information on the Recovery Coordination Program, Operation Warfighter, the Education and Employment Initiative and military caregiver support, visit www.warriorcare.mil