AF Wounded Warrior Program helps Airmen recover
By Airman 1st Class Jesenia Landaverde, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 18, 2017
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
It just takes a second.
In a moment’s notice, accidental or not, injuries can affect everyone. Whether mental or physical, no one is immune.
For Airmen, active duty, guard or reserve, the Air Force offers a program to help them recover from unpredictable injuries.
The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program is a congressionally-mandated, federally-funded program that provides personalized care, services and advocacy to seriously wounded, ill or injured service members, their caregivers or families.
“We don’t want Airmen who need the program to slip through the cracks,” said Robert Snyder, Recovery Care Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest region. “Commanders, first sergeants, supervisors and individuals should identify themselves by reaching out to me, whether they fit the criteria or not.”
Identification is the first of seven phases in the Continuum of Care, a part of the Recovery Coordination Process. This process provides recuperation services to Airmen who choose to take part in the program.
“I was very hesitant about it at first,” said Master Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski, a member of the program. “One of the struggles of a condition that isn’t readily obvious, like post-traumatic stress disorder, is trying to find help.”
Both mental and physical injuries are evaluated and referred through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System. Once Airmen are approved by IDES, they can enroll in the program and remain enrolled for the rest of their life, Snyder said.
At this point, the RCC contacts wounded warriors at least once a month via e-mail or phone call, or visits an installation to meet with them face-to-face.
Every installation has an assigned RCC that is responsible for a region and strategically stationed where there is a historically high volume of wounded, ill or injured Airmen being treated.
The RCC’s goal is to prevent unnecessary delays, reduce anxiety and obtain accurate and responsive information and services.
“I stay in touch with these wounded warriors after separation or through their next phase of life,” Snyder said. “I provide information on education, employment, social security disability and veteran’s assistant opportunities. I try to eliminate unnecessary stress on them.”
Each wounded warrior has a recovery team comprised of their medical provider, clinical case managers, non-medical care manager, commander, first sergeant and caregivers. The whole team helps get the wounded warrior to recovery rehabilitation, reintegration back to duty or through a medical separation transitioning to civilian life.
The program provides transitional support activities such as:
• Emergency Family Member Travel
• Family Liaison Officer Program, Caregiver Support Program,
• Adaptive and Rehabilitative Sports,
• Employment/Career Readiness,
• Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living
• Ambassador Program.
“I’ve known about the program for years,” Buzanowski said. “They’re really good about publicizing the sports activities and retreats they organize for wounded warriors to come together and help us cope.”
The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program hosts events for members and their families to build awareness of each other’s challenges and struggles.
If a determination is made that a service member will transition out of the Air Force, they and their family will continue to be assisted.
“This is their new normal,” Snyder said. “I work as an advocate for the recovering service member to make sure the transition goes smoothly as possible.”
This program is actively checking on approximately 3,000 wounded warriors in the Air Force worldwide.
“It’s not easy,” Snyder said. “Nothing stops because of change. Our job is to keep moving forward.”
Active duty, guard or reserve Airmen are eligible for this program on a case-by-case basis. For more information, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil or call 1-(800) 581-9437.