Changes To Army’s Wounded Warrior Program

October 31, 2008

Revisions to the criteria for the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) will allow more severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers the chance to participate in the program it was announced on Friday. Under the new criteria, Soldiers who have a combined disability rating of 50% will now be eligible for the program, as long as their injuries are related to combat.

According to Program Director Col. Jim Rice and SGM Brent Jurgensen, for example, if a Soldier has a 10 % rating on his hand, 20 % on his leg and 20 % because of a TBI and if the injuries were combat related, the Soldier will qualify the for Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). In the past, to qualify for the program, the Soldier must have a 30% disability rating for a single injury or illness.1

“As were were laying out the criteria for the Army Wounded Warrior Program in a briefing for senior leaders, one of the responses was that they thought maybe the program wasn’t as inclusive as it needed to be. That they had, in their visits to Army installations, come across Soldiers and families who needed the support of programs like the Army Wounded Warrior Program,” said Rice. He and Jurgensen pointed out that those Soldiers may be more in need of assistance, than the wounded Soldiers who were traditionally elgible for the program, founded in 2004.2

The new criteria doesn’t change eligibility of those who are already in the program. Those Soldiers who have a disability rating of 30% or more for a single injury still remain eligible for the program, whether it’s combat related or not. Currently around 3,400 Soldiers are enrolled in the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program. Soldiers who are newly eligible don’t have to complete any additional paperwork in order to enroll in the Wounded Warrior Program. Once they are identified, the program will contact them to see if they wish to participate or need any assistance. Their names will remain on the rolls and program officials will periodically check in with them.

The Army Wounded Warrior Program can do many things to assist a wounded Soldiers. They can assist with assisting them to find medical care in their area, applying and obtaining disability benefits from Social Security and the VA, as well as assisting them in finding employment or training opportunities. Sometimes just assisting a Soldier with a move, as simple as that might sound, can make a huge difference to the Soldier, according to SGM Jurgensen, speaking from experience. He because the senior enlisted advisor to AW2 after receiving two severe combat injuries. He then experienced a severe infection, which caused him to be unable to use his prosthetic. AW2 staff assisted him by finding three college students to help him set up his new house, following his recovery from severe injuries in Iraq, that left him an amputee.

“When I woke up, I really thought my life was over as I knew it,” he said. “Here’s a person who prided himself in his career, his physical fitness and his capabilities of leading Soldiers and just like that it’s gone. But you learn. I’ll never forget one of the people who walked into my room. He was a double amputee from the Vietnam era. He walked in, and maybe it was the drugs, but I never noticed anything. He sat down and we were talking and he said, ‘I’m a double amputee myself.’ It kind of made you think.”3

SMG Jurgensen shared how much the program meant to him. He talked in length about how, due to his pride, he’d have never asked for help. Luckily for him, the staff at the AW2 recognized his need and arranged help for him. He and Col. Rice both pointed out that AW2 doesn’t just assist the injured Soldier, but their family as well. Often family members are their primary contacts.

“I could tell you stories all day long. I could tell you stories of a young lady I met in California who spent the last 4 years either in a military hospital, a VA polytrauma hospital or a civilian hospital, who went home for the first time … She went from being in a coma for six months to walking me out to my car. Those things are great. I met a young man on the same trip. Also, spent the last four years of his life in a hospital or a polytrauma, quadriplegic from the neck down, blows in a tube to move his wheelchair around. But for the first time in his life, he is looking to find a caregiver and an apartment for himself,” Jurgensen said.4

While the program is a separate and distinct program from the Warrior Transition Units at bases throughout the Army, they share some of the same goals … enabling and assisting wounded Soldiers in transitioning either to civilian life or returning to active duty. Often Soldiers in a WTU are also involved in the AW2. The majority of Soldiers in the AW2 however, have already made that transition to civilian life or returned to active duty.

It’s great that the AW2 has relaxed the criteria for being eligible for the program. This will allow many more Soldiers, who really do need the services, to make the transition necessary to continue their lives and it will help them to do so, with as little difficulty as possible.

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One Response to “Changes To Army’s Wounded Warrior Program”

  1. Jesse C. Robinson on December 22nd, 2008 6:53 am

    Looking for help trying to get v.a. to look at wounded Soilders the way they sould - I have around 80% disability as result to combat actions 60% combined ratings w/combat crsc pay. I served the military for 20 yrs. I am acredited with 36 months combat had 2 inchs of left arm shot out but stayed in service and went back to vietnam for 19 months with 173rd Abn. I live in indiana use V.f.w. as rep. but v.a. Indy just plays games with soilders Claims and really not even listening to the agencies rep. Soilders needs I have served the u.s. goverment for 45yrs but see a lot of over looks to the Soilder and there familys. ( Whats with V.A. )

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