Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) delegates, from left to right, Craig Smith, Jonathan Looney, Christine Looney and CW3 Edward Rivas with the Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. at the Army Family Action Plan Conference.
By Vondell Brown, AW2 Advocate Support Branch, and Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom
The Army Family Action Plan or AFAP is the formal process by which delegates representing Families across the Army identify issues and recommend policy and procedural changes to improve the lives of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. Issues are gathered throughout the year and brought to the annual conference to be prioritized and forwarded to senior Army and other government leaders for resolution.
At last week’s AFAP conference in Arlington, Virginia, Army Chief of Staff GEN Raymond T. Odierno expanded the role of AFAP beyond the Army, highlighting its positive impact across the services.
“Most importantly, 61 percent of those issues went across the entire Department of Defense,” said GEN Odierno. “So you’re not only helping Army Families, you’re helping Air Force Families, Marine Families , Navy Families , and Coast Guard Families. And I know the Air Force has started this [type of forum] as well.”
“We must shape our Army,” said Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Raymond F. Chandler III. during his opening remarks to the delegates and staff echoed similar sentiments as the Army Chief of Staff.
As Chandler continued to speak about AFAP, he talked about an issue concerning medically retired servicemembers eligibility for concurrent receipt of disability pay saying, “We must push on with this issue to take care of our Soldiers.”
It is also important to note that the voice of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families has been particularly powerful at this year’s conference.
AW2 delegates Craig Smith, Jonathan Looney, Christine Looney, and CW3 Edward Rivas who spent five days in plenary sessions and working groups to voice the concerns and needs of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families seemed impressed with the AFAP process.
There was a lot of hard work and effort put in by the delegates and it will be evident at the out brief. “I think it will make a huge difference for the Family members coming behind us” said AW2 delegate Jonathan Looney.”
There were four focus groups that took on the task of reviewing 51 issues from the field. They were then tasked to prioritize two issues per group that were most important to the quality of life for the Army Family.
WTC/AW2 had a total of six issues elevated to the AFAP conference this year, and two of them were prioritized by the focus groups at AFAP and briefed to Army leadership at the end of the week.
One issue was the Department of the Army Form 5893 “Soldier’s Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board Checklist” language clarification. The current form does not explicitly state the possibility that a Soldier or Veteran would have to pay the government back for concurrent benefits. AFAP delegates recommended that the form be modified to clearly state the possibility.
Another issue from WTC/AW2 was the retention of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers to minimum retirement requirement. The delegates felt that wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers are being involuntarily separated and medically retired within two years of the end of their eligible retirement date due to medical conditions incurred in the line of duty. AFAP delegates prioritized this issue and recommended that servicemembers within two years of their minimum retirement requirement to remain on active duty and not involuntarily separated due to their medical condition.
The conference also prioritized existing AFAP issues and of the top seven, three of them were generated by the WTC/AW2 Symposium and dealt directly with the needs and issues of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.
For LTC Deb Cisney, the Officer in Charge of Symposium, the number of issues selected as new and prioritized issues speaks volumes about the Army’s level of commitment to the needs of the wounded, ill, and injured as well as the effectiveness of the WTC/AW2 Symposium as a process.
“The WTC/AW2 Symposium provides an opportunity for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families to take ownership of improving the immediate and long term support of this population—it is a powerful form of grassroots advocacy,” said Cisney. “Symposiums clearly demonstrate to wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, leadership, Congress, the media, and the general public that the Army is listening and taking action to improve the care and transition of these Soldiers and their Families.”
This year’s WTC/AW2 Symposium is taking place June 10-15 in Orlando, Florida. AW2 is currently accepting both issue submissions and delegate applications to continue Symposium’s seven-year legacy of support to wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.
To take part, go to the 2012 WTC/AW2 Symposium website, download the forms, and submit them today.