State governments learn about DoD's help for injured troops

28 Apr 2005 | Ms. Samantha L. Quigley

Several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, have partnered to assist severely injured service members and their families, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military, Community and Family policy said today to the nation's state officials.

Policy officials representing states that host about 70 percent of active, Guard and Reserve members were gathered here for the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices Workshop.

John M. Molino said the purpose of the partnership between DoD, the departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor and Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration is to help service members and their families rebuild their lives.

"We must band together to assist service members and their families ... to deliver long-term support," he said in a prepared statement.

This is an increasingly important endeavor as the ratio of service members wounded to those killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom is two times greater than other conflicts since World War II, Molino said. This is a testament to the military's proficiency in battlefield evacuation and medical-care systems in saving lives.

"These courageous young service members are surviving incredibly horrific injuries, but as a consequence, many of them face difficult challenges restarting their lives," Molino said.

That's where the support programs come in.

While the military services support programs are the "first responders" to the needs of the severely injured service member, there may be needs that those programs can't address. The Military Severely Injured Joint Support Operations Center augments programs like Army's Disabled Soldier Support System, the Marine Corps' Marine for Life, the Navy severely injured support program and the Air Force Palace Heart to ensure there are no gaps in the care provided, Molino said.

"The department has focused support to severely injured service members and their families to ensure that they receive uninterrupted care and support as they transition from recovery through to establishing a new life, either as a member of the DoD team or as a citizen in one of your states," David S. Chu, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told the group earlier in the day.

Chu sees the center as a team comprised of the military services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, the private sector and local community activities, he said.

"State governments are an important member of this team and we invite all of you to have your state committees and organizations which support service members to link up with our center to support these deserving individuals," Chu said.

This is an effort Molino said governors were interested during the NGA's annual conference in Seattle last summer.

"The governors wanted to ensure they played their part in honoring these heroes' service and welcoming them back to their communities," Molino said. "The message we want to deliver is that success requires the concerted effort of all who are committed to ensure that no one is left without and all are honored for their service to a grateful nation."
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