By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 28, 2009 17:19:28 EDT
A year-old program that assigns recovery coordinators to help severely injured combat veterans and their families maneuver through the maze of military and veterans’ treatment and benefits programs is underpublicized and still has growing pains, a House subcommittee was told Tuesday. There are 14 Federal Recovery Coordinators responsible for fewer than 300 cases of the most severely injured combat veterans who face complicated treatment and recovery plans. That is just a handful of the estimated 1,300 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have what the the Department of Veterans Affairs considers catastrophic injures.
Two veterans recovering from serious injuries received in Iraq, plus the spouse of another Iraq veteran and the mother of a soldier who received a serious brain injury while training, testified before a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee panel that the 14 Federal Recovery Coordinators hired in the last year are desperately needed to deal with a a process that is difficult to understand and constantly changing. The oversight and investigations subcommittee, headed by Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., is concerned that the program is not fully staffed nor fully functioning, and that too few veterans and their families know that it is available.
Sarah Wade, the wife of retired Army Sgt. Ted Wade, who was severely injured in 2004 by a roadside bomb, said she needs the help of a high-level person able to cut through bureaucracy to get answers and coordinate treatment but has found mixed results with the recovery coordinator program. When the program started, Wade said she “could not have been happier.” But the coordinator left after just four months, replaced by someone new who knew nothing about her husband or the help that he needed.