Streamlined care could help veterans recover

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At the end of his presentation Wednesday, Raymond Scurfield played a moving clip of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the field where his battalion was ambushed decades ago and breaking down in tears as he felt a link to his 21-year-old former self.

Thirty years from now, Scurfield said, he hopes there will not be veterans "desperate to go back to Iraq and Afghanistan because of the healing they still have to do."

A two-day meeting at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center aims to help keep that from happening. The session -- "From Front Lines to Front Lawns: Paving the Way Home for Returning and Transitioning Service Members, Veterans and their Families" -- brought together VA, military, state and veterans advocates to talk about working together more closely and forming a statewide initiative to address those problems. Augusta is getting a boost in that regard with three federal recovery coordinators added to Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. There are only 20 in the whole country.

"That's a tremendous help and something we have been advocating for," said Laurie Ott, the executive director of the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project.

Many of the seriously injured might start off at one military hospital, get transferred to another, then perhaps go to a VA and back to another military facility, said Michael McDonald, the deputy director for benefits with the Federal Recovery Coordination Program.

"And all of these transitions are difficult," he said. The service member might get a case manager at one place, then transfer and have to start up with a whole new manager, McDonald said.

"The idea of the (recovery coordinator) is to be continuous," he said, and help the patient and family follow an individualized recovery plan.

The need will likely be tremendous, said Scurfield, a professor of social work at the University of Southern Mississippi and a former director of the VA's National Center for PTSD. Studies show 15 percent to 30 percent of returning service members have significant mental health or readjustment problems, he said. Risk increases with exposure, which is particularly concerning with the number of multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Scurfield, a Vietnam veteran.

"This puts them at very high risk beyond the physical risk of their deployment," he said.

That risk could be compounded by the difficulty of the "handoff" between the Department of Defense and the VA for returning troops, Scurfield said.

"(Defense) and VA have historically had very different goals," he said. That perhaps could point to a solution in helping to better align those missions, Scurfield said.

"Could we have a mission that literally overlaps, where the missions aren't distinct?" he asked.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or

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justus4 01/21/10 - 08:35 am
A useless story. No one cares

A useless story. No one cares about veterans and this "deputy director for benefits" is making big bucks going around giving "two-day meetings" where yapping about old time is the theme. The wars were started under a FALSE pretext, then the service member does his duty, if he/she survives and returns, then the agencies get started & creates more agencies promising "better treatment of veterans" while fattening their pockets. These veteran programs are extremely subjective and highly political. Just answer this question: If there are "only 20 in the whole country" What is happening to those veterans from the other THIRTY states? What are their mental conditions? The nation promises EVERY veteran from EVERY state - not just twenty. So the article exposes the failure to assist ALL veterans, but praises those luck few. Ha! They should have informed us of that small oversight BEFORE being sent into that meatgrinder with no end in sight. Yep, the ol' VA is benefitting some with good jobs and great pay, but for some of the REAL Vets, the nation has again failed to deliver for those who served honorably. "All Gave Some, Some Gave All"

SpikeM 01/21/10 - 02:19 pm
I suppose justus4 believes

I suppose justus4 believes the private sector is more concerned with our veterans than the VA. Ha.

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