Sunday, February 18, 2007

"If we can have Spanish speaking recruiters convince my son to join the Army, 
...why can't we have Spanish-speaking translators when he's injured?"

Good question.

I'm not sure the answer is going to be one the woman posing it wants to hear: Maybe we shouldn't try to have a bilingual Army. I don't think it's too much to ask that our soldiers and Marines speak English. After all, they have to follow commands on the battlefield from non-Spanish-speaking leaders.

But a sizeable percentage of military dependents are not going to be English speakers - we know that going in, and that's a fact of life if you are going to be deploying units from South Florida and from the Puerto Rico National Guard.

All in all, I'm glad to see the Washington Post do this kind of enterprise journalism. Pam Hess of the UPI blew some Army medical system stupidity wide open in 2003, and soldiers' lives got better because of it.

Here we are five years into a war - a war with a consistent and predictable casualty rate. That we could not or did not anticipate the requirements of our wounded and plan and staff accordingly over the last few years is disgraceful.

You always have to take griping with a grain of salt - and the Washington Post makes far too much of the fact that our wounded are leading other wounded. Just because you're wounded does not mean you cease to be an officer or NCO. Our wounded leaders are leaders first.

If you strip our leaders of this responsibility because they are wounded, you will only worsen the condition of the Army and our troops. Give our wounded leaders the dignity of leadership. And give these leaders the administrative support they need to take care of our soldiers and marines.

Soldiers, wives, mothers, social workers and the heads of volunteer organizations have complained repeatedly to the military command about what one called "The Handbook No One Gets" that would explain life as an outpatient. Most soldiers polled in the March survey said they got their information from friends. Only 12 percent said any Army literature had been helpful.

Shameful. And to think that it happened right in the shadow of the Pentagon and Congress!!!


Still, the article notes that some improvements are already underway:

Acknowledging the problems with outpatient care, Weightman said Walter Reed has taken steps over the past year to improve conditions for the outpatient army, which at its peak in summer 2005 numbered nearly 900, not to mention the hundreds of family members who come to care for them. One platoon sergeant used to be in charge of 125 patients; now each one manages 30. Platoon sergeants with psychological problems are more carefully screened. And officials have increased the numbers of case managers and patient advocates to help with the complex disability benefit process, which Weightman called "one of the biggest sources of delay."

Gee, we couldn't see that coming?

Life beyond the hospital bed is a frustrating mountain of paperwork. The typical soldier is required to file 22 documents with eight different commands -- most of them off-post -- to enter and exit the medical processing world, according to government investigators. Sixteen different information systems are used to process the forms, but few of them can communicate with one another. The Army's three personnel databases cannot read each other's files and can't interact with the separate pay system or the medical recordkeeping databases.

Yeah, that's dumber than hitting a nail with a sack full of hammers.

Still, it sounds familiar.

And to be fair, that's a bigger problem than can be addressed by the Walter Reed commander. That's a problem for PERSCOM.

It's high time it was fixed.

Splash, out


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