By Koby Langley, U.S. Department of Defense
On March 13, 2008, Sara Wade testified before Congress about the challenges she faced managing the care of her husband, Sergeant Edward Wade, who suffered multiple severe injuries in Iraq in 2004. In particular, Mrs. Wade testified that she had difficulty accessing necessary services for her husband when and where he needed them. As a possible solution, she recommended patient-specific case management and the development of individualized treatment plans.
Earlier this month, Mr. Philip Burdette, Principal Director for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy and Mr. John Medve, Executive Director of VA/DoD Collaboration Services testified before Congress about the progress made towards Mrs. Wade’s vision,
[caption id="attachment_2262" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Mr. Philip Burdette, Principal Director for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy and Mr. John Medve, Executive Director for VA/DoD Collaboration Service Testify before Congress on joint solutions to care coordination for wounded warriors and their families."]
and outlined a way forward for continued collaboration and delivery of case management services for wounded warriors.
Their presence and position alone were testimony to have far we have come. Created specifically to focus on improving the care and services delivered to recovering Service members, neither position existed when Sara Wade gave her testimony over three years ago.
And that is just the beginning. The differences in the benefits and services available now, as compared to what was available then are noteworthy. As Mr. Burdette stated in his testimony, “Today, Sergeant Wade would receive the clinical expertise of a Federal Recovery Coordinator and the non-clinical assistance of a Recovery Care Coordinator
as part of his care team. The use of Federal Recovery Coordinators (FRCs)and Recovery Care Coordinators (RCCs) demonstrates just how far we have come.”
The services provided by these care managers—FRCs from the VA and RCCs from the DoD—span the full spectrum of case management for wounded, ill, and injured Service members, including important aspects of:
Prior to 2008, there were no individuals responsible for non-medical care case management at all, and the policy was announced in October of 2007
-- four years later, there are more than 170 Recovery Care Coordinators in more
than 84 locations across the globe caring for thousands of wounded warriors and their families.
These care coordinators help Service members and families capture their goals and benchmarks in a Comprehensive Recovery Plan, which is now managed in an online environment and is accessible by the Military Services as well as their care coordinator counterparts in the VA. Prior to 2010, a caregiver would create a Comprehensive Recovery Plan by filling out printed forms by hand -- making the creation, management and sharing of the plan a difficult and time consuming process.
In addition to these great strides, the Department of Veterans Affairs also testified that their Federal Recovery Care Coordinators are all Master’s-level certified nurses and clinical social workers who support the most severely wounded, ill and injured Service members and veterans and their families by advocating in all clinical and non-clinical aspects of recovery.
As Mr. Medve testified: The “FRCP is not redundant with existing support programs in VA and DoD, but rather complementary.”
That cooperation was evident at the first ever joint Care Coordination Summit held in march of this year to capture best practices, and lessons learned.
So, we have come a long way since Sara Wade’s testimony, but what is next? As one possible next step, both agencies testified that they are considering how to merge the services provided by both DoD and VA to this critical population to alleviate any confusion about available services that a recovering Service member or family member might experience.
The two Departments’ priority to “get this right” was evidenced by their commitment to continue providing these critical services to recovering Service members, and to ensure that their work is as seamless as possible for the recovering Service member and their family. In an environment of increasing fiscal constratints, as Mr. Burdette stated -- for wounded warriors, “too much help is a wonderful problem to have.”