Case Workers for Wounded GI's Laid OffJanuary 22, 2007
Defense Department officials have laid off most of their case workers who help severely injured service members, sources said.
The case workers for the Military Severely Injured Center serve as advocates for wounded service members who have questions or issues related to benefits, financial resources and their successful return to duty or reintegration into civilian life - all forms of support other than medical care.
The center officially opened in February 2005, with its primary offices in Arlington, Va., but also hired advocates at hospitals around the country.
Four sources said the decision was made to cut back the personnel because officials with the Army's Wounded Warrior program felt the Defense Department program was a duplication of efforts.
Defense officials did not comment on the actions as of Jan. 19. Wounded Warrior officials also could not be reached.
Reports indicate that Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and Fort Campbell, Ky., were among the locations that had case workers cut. It is not clear what will happen to case workers at the Arlington center.
The only case workers that have not been laid off are at three hospitals: Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas; Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii; and Naval Medical Center San Diego, sources said. But those case workers will not be allowed to work with soldiers and must refer them to the Army Wounded Warrior program.
The laid-off workers were told Wednesday to finish up their case work with severely injured troops, and that Friday would be their last day.
"I'm just livid about this," said Janice Buckley, Washington state chapter president for Operation Homefront.
She was notified that the two case workers at Fort Lewis were given short notice that their jobs were ending, but she has no further information.
"They did a fabulous job for these families," Buckley said. "The kind of work they do for these families who are hanging by a thread ... no other organization helped service members and their families like they did."
The MSIC case workers provided the wounded service members with contacts and referrals to other organizations and agencies, ranging from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Social Security Administration, depending on their individual needs. Operation Homefront often helps with the families' emergency financial needs.