Speaker: Mr. Stephen Lew, the Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) Program’s Advocate (contractor) for our region spoke to the Council at its 18 May meeting, explaining the program and his role within it.
Not to be confused with the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization, AW2 is “the official Army program that serves the severely wounded, ill, and injured soldiers, veterans, and their families, wherever located and for as long as it takes” – even a lifetime if necessary. It was created in 2004 as part Army Medical Command’s response to a critical need to transform outpatient care and services.
This particular program, which has evolved over time, is limited to the most severely wounded soldiers serving or who have served since since 9/11 – meaning those who have or are expected to receive an Army disability rating of 30% or greater in one or more specific categories or a combined rating of 50% or greater for conditions that are the result of combat or are combat related. The categories include blindness, deafness, fatal/incurable disease, amputation, spinal cord injury, disfigurement, burns, traumatic brain injury – and PTSD. There was mention by Mr. Lew that this rating may also be a VA disability compensation rating of 30% or greater.
Once assigned, the AW2 Advocate helps empowers the seriously injured soldier, regardless of his eventual status or phase in the “Wounded Warrior Lifecycle”(there are six), in a system that might otherwise lose sight of him or her and a myriad of programs. The Advocate provides assistance on day-to-day issues in recovery as well as longer-term decisions, such as choosing to remain in the Army or to medically retire. He emphasized the support does not end if one gets out). Examples of the tasks in which involved are: finding the individual or family a place to live, arranging family counseling, helping to obtain or coordinating government benefits, finding local resources that can assist, helping to make plans for schooling and a job (five year career plans).
Currently, there over over 170 Advocates serving 8400 severely injured from the Army, most passing through Walter Reed and about 20 to 30 years of age. Four Advocates are assigned to Pennsylvania (three of the positions currently filled and one newly opened an employee beng sought). These are contractor positions (Apogee Solutions in Pennsylvania). Mr. Lew, a former military recruiter, is responsible for the Lehigh Valley area and works out of Lebanon VA Hospital. He serves three or four veterans from our area. There are on the order of 150 to 200 veterans and families assisted or case managed in Pennsylvania, mainly by telephone. Follow-up is proactive. The program allows for the fact that the individual may at first refuse to use the service.
For more information, he can be reached at 717-272-6621, Ext 4804 or by cell phone at 717-507-0675 or by email Stephen.Lew@va.gov
General Sajer, The Last Post: Major General Gerald Sajer passed away last Saturday. He had been an important Adjutant General during the 70’s and 80’s when Guard downsizing was in play. A fierce fighter, he helped ensure its survival and what you now see today. He was also in his later years a fierce advocate for a State Department of Veterans Affairs, giving testimony for the same before the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2008, and was dumbfounded by the lack of veterans organization in this state ability or desire to push for such a thing – as opposed to other states where they have taken the lead in such matters. He will be missed.
Scholarship Program: The 15 May deadline for submissions has passed. Expect to hear of the recommendations of the subcommittee at the next Veterans Affairs Committee meeting in June. The scholarship committee meets 24 May to make its decisions on a near dozen scholarship applicants. Our intent is to have all awards out by August.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing: The 7 May event at Saks Pond went off well with by far the largest attendance yet. 11 of 17 who made reservations showed, some with family members. Next event is scheduled for 25-26 fishing lodge excursion at Jamison Creek, just south of here. Recruiting is to end 31 May.
Homelessness: Presently working a $3,000 award to Victory House which has special conditions due to the benefactor.
The chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee was unable to attend the Allentown Commission to End Chronic Homelessness on 13 May due to conflicts, but has been told housing remains a major issue – it was the focus of the event. He has also read in the Washington Post where HUD is having monumental problems in contracting with cities/counties and developers.
We are making final arrangements for an award to the Lehigh County Conference of Churches towards their homeless work training program when it involves veterans.
Veterans Sanctuary: The final step necessary to opening is currently with DPW in Harrisburg. Magellan has done its part. We are hopeful for opening by early June, if not sooner. We are in final stages of reviewing and making a recommendation for a family psycho-educational counseling program to be operated by Treatment Trends’ CONFRONT in support of the Veterans Sanctuary effort.
Military Support: The BounceU event on 23 April went well though we expected more to attend. Of the 48 adults with 41 children who made reservations, 27 adults with 18 children attended. All services except Navy were represented – so our marketing and advertising improved considerably this time. LVMAC, Operation Homefront, M.O.Ms, Blue Star Mothers, and Allentown Family Assistance had tables there to improve knowledge of services available to them. LVMAC kicked in some money for additional food. Needless to say, we are thankful to the owner of Bounce U for sponsoring the event.
Local Fundraising: Bob Faro has stepped down due to other commitments. We are looking for a new local fundraising chair. Please spread the word. The Ashly Moyer 5K Race for Freedom is still scheduled for 3 September. Marketing and advertising are about to begin.
Veterans Information and Assistance Program: Our next speaker will be Mr. Paul Hoffecker of Renovating Hope (www.renovatinghope.org). We attended Rep. Marcia Hahn’s Veterans Talk at American Legion Post 479, Bath, last Thursday night.
Governmental Affairs: We are in the final phases of redrafting state department of veterans affairs legislation in a renewed effort. We have suggested to the Governor’s Office that Veterans Diversion Courts should be a statewide effort and not an accident of fate in where one lives.
See blogsite on Family Caregive Program Rollout … After missing the 30 January deadline for full implementation, the VA is posting the “interim” final rule to enable them to get rolling on “Family Caregiver Program” of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010, which includes enhanced services to a family caregiver of a veteran who sustained a serious injury in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001. The Act does not help veterans of other periods. The program provides, among other things, for community-based care, to include adult day healthcare and home aides, respite care, caregiver training, a special website, caregiver support coordinators at each VA Med Center, a support line, travel reimbursement and a caregiver stipend.
VA found Incompetent … See LVMAC Tidbits on blogsite.
18 May 2011