What should I do first?
Focus on your basic needs first—food, lodging, money, child care. Do whatever is needed for your service member’s comfort and well-being. Let your family members and friends know that you have arrived safely. Then begin to find your way around the hospital and learn where you can go with questions. Take care of these basics, then come back to this notebook and learn more about the recovery process ahead.
When can I see my service member?
Every medical situation is different. Maybe you and your service member have already been together, or maybe you have been told that you need to wait until a surgery or treatment is finished. The doctors, nurses, and other care providers taking care of your loved one will let you know when the time is right—which will be as soon as it’s medically possible. In the meantime, remember that you are needed here. You were invited because doctors determined that your presence is important to your service member’s recovery. You are a very important part of this process.
Where should I stay?
The person who gave you this book or someone else from the hospital can explain lodging options to you. In some cases you may be able to sleep temporarily in the room with your service member. Or the military treatment facility (MTF) where your service member is receiving care may have separate lodging for families. Fisher Houses, available at many MTFs in the United States, can also be an excellent option. Fisher Houses are large homes with private suites, built and sponsored by a nonprofit organization that supports families of wounded, ill, and injured service members. Depending on the space available, families may stay in Fisher Houses (at little cost) during their loved one’s hospitalization. Someone in the social work department at your service member’s MTF can tell you more and make reservations for you. If these options aren’t available or if you choose to stay at a nearby hotel, you can receive reimbursement for some of these expenses.
How will I pay for this?
Travel, food, and lodging are expensive. The government helps many families of wounded, ill, and injured service members cover costs during the process of recovery through “Invitational Travel Orders” (ITOs). ITOs are issued when doctors determine that the presence of a family member will help a wounded, ill, or injured service member. When you receive ITOs, you are eligible to receive money for travel, lodging, and daily food expenses. This daily expense reimbursement is called a “per diem.”
The length of ITOs varies depending on the service member’s needs. The amount of the per diem varies depending on the cost of living near the MTF. Someone from the MTF’s finance office can help you with this and answer your questions about the amounts and duration of your per diem as well as about the reimbursement process. Keep in mind that it is necessary for you to save receipts for reimbursement and to file paperwork at appropriate times.
In addition, the service-branch Wounded Warrior programs are associated with many nonprofit organizations that can help with financial concerns.
What about the children?
If you brought your child or children, you will probably need child care. In some situations, children may not be allowed in hospital rooms. At other times you may simply need a break from caring for them yourself. Because so many families have this need, most MTFs provide child care during certain hours for children within a certain age range. The person who gave you this notebook or your service-branch Wounded Warrior program representative can tell you
more about the child care center or other options in the area. For military child care, you must have proof of immunization for each child. If you didn’t bring this with you, contact your pediatrician’s office or someone else at home and ask them to send it to you.
Where can I go for help?
Each MTF facility has a “family center” (or a room with a similar name). It will probably have computers that you can use to send email or to research the Internet, plus phones you can use to stay in touch with loved ones. Most important, there will be people in the center to answer your questions.
In many MTFs or hospitals there are groups of people called “Patient Affairs Teams.” For Marines and their families there are Marine Corps Liaisons at Navy facilities to provide nonmedical care services. At Army facilities there are “Soldier Family Assistance Centers” (SFACs) with people who provide support and information.
When you have some time, you can also look at www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov, an online partnership for wounded, ill, and injured service members, veterans, and their families.
What is a Recovery Team?
A “Recovery Team” is the team of professionals that support a recovering service member and the service member’s family. It is important to build strong relationships with them and take advantage of their help. In addition to the people listed below, it includes doctors, therapists, and other medical and non-medical professionals who provide care, support, and benefits to your loved one. Depending on your service member’s condition and needs, some or all of these people may be part of your service member’s team:
Recovering Service Member (RSM) Your wounded, ill, or injured service member.
Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC) RCCs are employed by your loved one’s service branch, and are assigned to RSMs with serious wounds, illnesses, and injuries. An RCC is a trained professional assigned to provide oversight and assistance to your recovering service member. The RCC will identify your service member’s personal and professional needs and goals and compile them into a Comprehensive Recovery Plan (CRP).
Federal Recovery Coordinator (FRC) FRCs perform the same tasks as RCCs, but are employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and assigned to RSMs with severe wounds, illnesses, and injuries who will likely retire from military service.
Medical Care Case Manager (MCCM)
A trained professional with a medical background, often as a nurse case manager, assigned to help RSMs understand their condition and treatment and to make sure they receive necessary health care