Augusta helps wounded warriors

  • Follow Opinion columns

I am grateful for the opportunity to answer questions some in our community have raised about the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project, our mission and what we hope to accomplish.


The CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project is a fully funded local initiative to explore ways the Augusta area might better serve wounded warriors and their families. At the heart of our mission is an interest to serve the men and women who return from Iraq and Afghanistan with wounds and injuries, both of the type we can see and of the type we cannot see. Our troops returning from these war zones come home with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs that should be met with the best care available. The CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project is exploring ways Augusta might direct, redirect and expand its capacities to provide that care.


Some have wondered if we have any connection to another organization, the Wounded Warrior Project, based in Jacksonville, Fla. We are in no way affiliated with them, but we have been in contact with their group. We support and applaud their efforts to take better care of our nation's wounded warriors, and we have been very encouraged by our initial conversation with their national policy advisor, and I am planning on meeting with another staff member next week. We look forward to learning how we might work together when it comes to improving the local care of wounded warriors. As I understand it, their goals and ours are not in any way opposed.

We are not raising money, but we know of organizations that are. Augusta's Uptown VA is currently No. 8 on a list of approved Fisher House projects. The national Fisher House Foundation has committed $1.8 million toward the $3.6 million project, which will be home to 21 families of wounded warriors. The construction of this second Fisher House for Augusta (the first one is home to seven families at Fort Gordon, and has a 98 percent occupancy rate) is critical to the care of wounded warriors as we know people heal quicker when surrounded by people they love.


When we first started investigating what our community already is doing to help the wounded warriors, we found an extremely successful and unique collaboration between Eisenhower Army Medical Center and the Uptown VA. The Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit at the Uptown VA is the nation's only facility of its kind within a Veterans Administration facility, and is a shining example of an existing effort that does indeed deliver the gold standard of care our wounded warriors deserve.


However, as former U.S. Rep. Doug Barnard and I - along with others enlisted in our efforts - have discovered, the Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit was built with 60 beds, but currently only half of those beds are funded or being used.

When we discovered that a U.S. Army specialist from Camden, S.C., who had lost her leg in an IED blast in Iraq had to wait at Walter Reed for physical therapy, we wondered why some of the wounded warriors crowded into that facility in Washington, D.C., might not be brought to Augusta for treatment and healing. This same specialist arrived at the Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit on a walker, and within three weeks was on her prosthetic leg full time. She is now preparing to run in the Army 10-miler.


This specialist is not the only success story at the Uptown VA. More than 400 active duty personnel have been treated by the unit on an in-patient basis, and more than a thousand have received treatment as outpatients.


We contacted U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's office in March and began working with them on what we could do to raise awareness about Augusta's current work with wounded warriors. We were honored that Sen. Isakson brought the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to Augusta for a field hearing. It was at this hearing on Aug. 28 that we heard over and over that the Active Duty Rehab Unit delivers the best and most aggressive therapy available.

Spc. Jason Capps testified that after he was injured in a bomb blast in Iraq, his wife, who works at a VA in Oklahoma, told him he must go to Augusta's ADRU because he would receive the top-notch care and resources that were available. Spc. Capps praised the care and compassion he gets in Augusta, and said every soldier deserves the same.


Augusta is unique not only because of the Active Duty Rehab Unit. We are also home to the Army's Southeast Medical Command, located at Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Brig. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, commanding general of Walter Reed and former commander at Eisenhower, testified at the hearing in Augusta that the sharing of resources, as happens between Eisenhower and our two other VA facilities, is the most cost-effective way to deliver care. He called on the leaders in Congress, the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to see to it that those who are so deserving always have the best medical care possible when and where they need it.


With 70 percent of returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan coming from the southeastern United States, we envision Augusta as uniquely situated to play a larger role in service to our men and women who deserve our best.


In addition to local, state and federal leaders, we have met with representatives from the Medical College of Georgia, who might also play a larger role in wounded warrior care. The President's Commission on the Care for the Returning Wounded Warrior (PCCWW) has outlined a simple, six-step plan. The commission calls for the establishment of recovery coordinators to lead wounded warriors through their healing processes, assisting them with any and all needs along the way.

This recovery coordinator job description matches up very closely with the already up-and-running Clinical Nurse Leader Program at MCG's School of Nursing, and we are investigating ways this local program might receive national recognition as a model and conduit to train recovery coordinators.


The president's commission also calls for better treatment and prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which are two conditions under study and being treated at MCG. We are interested in discovering and exposing ways our local researchers and caregivers might further collaborate with Eisenhower and the VA facilities in Augusta.


Our idea is simple: We want to better serve our wounded warriors closer to home. Augusta is uniquely situated to serve our wounded warriors, and we hope the community will join in and support our efforts.

The writer is executive director of the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project.

Comments (11) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
JohnRandolphHardisonCain
576
Points
JohnRandolphHardisonCain 09/16/07 - 07:13 am
0
0
Great! Why did you choose a

Great! Why did you choose a name that is so similar to the Wounded
Warrior Project based in Jacksonville? Didn't you realize this would lead
to confusion? Why wasn't the distinction made clear in the first
Augusta Chronicle piece on your organization? Most of the above column
is a reiteration of the original heartwarming piece that ran in The
Chroncle. Please answer these questions, Ms. Ott. How much are you
being paid? If your organization is not raising money then what is the
source of your funding? Please understand these questions are not meant
to be disparaging of efforts to help wounded veterans. Lord knows they
need all that we and the govt can provide. This is an effort to ask salient,
pertinent questions and to get straight, full disclosure answers. The
bottom line is transparency and accountability. Thank you. P.S. Johnny
Isakson is a prime backer of this war and wants the war to continue.
That will lead to still further casualties. Johnny Isakson's
participation in your organization hurts its credibility IMO. He is
working at cross purposes. If you want this group to be an apolitical
support group, you must get political partisans like Johnny Isakson out
of it.

mgroothand
5
Points
mgroothand 09/16/07 - 08:29 am
0
0
Laurie: As a former broadcast

Laurie: As a former broadcast journalist and News anchor you had to develop a tough skin. I hope that serves you well after reading the ususal diatribe coming from JRHC. The man lives for negativism.

Riverman1
78408
Points
Riverman1 09/16/07 - 08:56 am
0
0
I totally support our wounded

I totally support our wounded warriors and our President's efforts with the war in Iraq. I also know that we have organizations already in place that are accomplishing much in the rehabilitation of our wounded. The idea of bringing Walter Reed patients to Eisenhower Army Medical Center was begun after the Congressional hearings voiced concern. Eisenhower has been coordinating with the VA to provide every level of care for quite awhile now. For instance, even if a veteran required open heart surgery, he/she would have it performed without cost at Eisenhower. Many have been working tirelessly without pay such as the official Wounded Warrior Project and the Red Cross at the VA and Eisenhower helping with all manners of things to these vets. The Fischer House, funded by a magnificent individual, with houses all over the country, has expanded its role to include housing for vets families while they are in rehab. It is interesting the Ms. Ott says she is not raising money, but in other news stories says she is going to register as a nonprofit corporation and will be the only paid employee. Something is not right. How much will she be paid?

deekster
24
Points
deekster 09/16/07 - 10:44 am
0
0
The need is great and The

The need is great and The mission is great. As with the many "calls" to "save our children". But in the age in which we live, one must ask, "Why reivent the wheel?" "Or in the case of Augusta, why duplicate services already available." Or "Why coordinate services already coordinated?" Augusta is filled with "non-profit organizations" with "six figure" coordinators that do nothing but refer people to someone who actually helps fill their needs. It is like "hey Augusta is filled with idiots" lets all go their and get take their money. Duplication of services to the "needy" is unreal. Visit a local United Way business meeting and you will see. Not the "luncheon". The work sessions, where the coordinators ply their trades. Anyone can do this. Some have genuine motives while others have self interest. I hope Ms. Ott is in the former.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 09/16/07 - 10:54 am
0
0
See what I mean. This from

See what I mean. This from today's local section. Nineteen groups have come on board, ranging from the obscure to the well-established, said Sgt. Roundtree, the executive director. They include Boys & Girls Clubs of Augusta, Ounce of Prevention Services, Precious Jewels Youth Organizations, Fathers With a Purpose, Positive Women Taking Action, Positive Choice Enrichment and Mocha Sisters Organization of Augusta, among others. This list goes on and on. Every tom dick and harry is a coordinator of some group that is funded by federal grant money as non profit with "paid coordinator" and some " paid staff". The six figure salaries and more don't interfer with the "Not for profit groups". Just as a church pastor, assistant pastor, music director, youth director's salary is within non profit definition.

Riverman1
78408
Points
Riverman1 09/16/07 - 12:16 pm
0
0
I will also point out that

I will also point out that the position of recovery coordinator for wounded soldiers that Ott thinks MCG could do is already working well with coordinators from Eisenhower, fully funded by the Army. Ott displays an incredible lack of knowledge on the whole matter to be a paid director.

SugarFoot
0
Points
SugarFoot 09/16/07 - 02:34 pm
0
0
No good deed goes unpunished

No good deed goes unpunished in Augusta. It's seems that whenever someone gets off their duff to do something positive in this town they are maligned and criticised by the local sourpusses. Good going Laurie, and just ignore these aholes.

Riverman1
78408
Points
Riverman1 09/16/07 - 05:07 pm
0
0
So we are going to

So we are going to deteriorate into calling each other "aholes." Well, Sugarfoot, [filtered word] right back at ya.

lluttrell
0
Points
lluttrell 09/17/07 - 07:49 am
0
0
Laurie, How can I help. Lloyd

Laurie,

How can I help.

Lloyd E. Luttrell, COTA
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

ginah12881
0
Points
ginah12881 09/17/07 - 11:11 am
0
0
Laurie, I am a Certified

Laurie, I am a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and mental health educator and also a veteran and military spouse with a Bachelors degree and 112 hours towards a masters in psychology. I have applied for employment to the VA in order to help our soldiers who are returning, but have run into many barriers ie., having to be a RN in order to work in the Spinal Cord Brain Injury rehab unit. Is there somewhere that is seeking professionals in this field to assist with your efforts that does not require a Nursing degree? I would love to come on board to further service our soldiers and their families.

Laurie Ott
0
Points
Laurie Ott 09/17/07 - 03:06 pm
0
0
Please contact me at your

Please contact me at your convenience at laurie.ott@csrawwcp.org or my office number 706-434-1708. Thank you!

Laurie Ott

Back to Top

Loading...