QUANTICO, Va. - Countless parents, spouses and children of wounded, ill or injured Marines have willingly taken on the title of "caregiver." For Virginia Long and Jamie Pope supporting our nations wounded, ill and injured Marines is a twofold process. While they function as loving caregivers to their spouses, they also serve as Recovery Care Coordinator's at the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment.
In the aftermath of a wound or injury or the notification of an illness, a Marine and family may be disoriented and unsure of the resources available to support them through their recovery. A Recovery Care Coordinator or RCC is one of the first non-medical points of contact a wounded, ill or injured Marine and their family will have with the support network that will ensure a smooth transition either back to full duty, or to the civilian community. They help Marines navigate from the point of injury until their end of active service or return to duty.
"Being a RCC allows me to take my experience as a caregiver for my husband and use it to better the Marines and families who are currently here," said Pope. "I get to serve as a living example and I can say it will get stressful but you will get better."
To eliminate some of the stresses of being a caregiver, RCC's have their Marines and families develop a Comprehensive Recovery Plan (CRP). Simply stated, the CRP is a Marine's roadmap. It's a forward looking document that captures a Marine's and family's needs, translates those into concrete goals and then provides specific, actionable steps to meet those goals. One of the hallmarks of the CRP is that a resource is provided for each of these steps so the Marine always knows who assists with each particular action.
Examples include linking caregivers up with resources to assist them with counseling support, benefits and entitlements, financial preparedness, employment, transition, childcare and even organizations that provide adaptive modifications to homes, wheelchairs and vehicles.
"A lot of people take for granted transportation," said Long. Due to her husband's injury, he cannot always drive. "In 2007, while operating as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician in Karma, Iraq my husband's mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle was hit by an IED and launched approximately 30 feet into the air. The vehicle landed on the driver's side where my husband was sitting," said Long. Resources such as the Battalion's family readiness officer and the VA Caregiver Program are among the many organizations and programs that assisted Long and Pope. All caregivers have access to these resources and more through their RCC.
Caregivers continue to serve as dedicated advocates for their Marines throughout their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Pope's advice to new caregivers is to "take it one day at a time and be patient with the doctors and your service member. Don't be afraid to advocate for your service member. If something is not getting done, go to someone else."
Care for Marines assigned an RCC does not stop at transition. For Marines who move to veteran status and require continued transition support, RCCs will coordinate the transfer of their case to the Wounded Warrior Regiment's District Injured Support Cells (DISCs) or to Non-medical Care Managers who will provide continued support until the Marine and family have successfully transitioned and no longer need one-on-one care coordination. The Marine Corps established the RCC program through the Wounded Warrior Regiment in the fall of 2009 in accordance with federal law and Department of Defense instruction. Currently, there are 49 RCCs located across the country in support of wounded, ill, and injured Marines and their families.
Established in 2007, the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment was created to provide and facilitate non-medical care to combat and non-combat wounded, ill, and injured Marines, and sailors attached to or in direct support of Marine units and their family members in order to assist them as they return to duty or transition to civilian life. The Regimental Headquarters element, located in Quantico, Va., commands the operations of two Wounded Warrior Battalions located at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., and multiple detachments in locations around the globe.
For more information about the Wounded Warrior Regiment go to: www.woundedwarriorregiment.org, http://facebook.com/wwr.usmc or call the Sgt. Merlin German Wounded Warrior Call Center 24/7 at 877-487-6299.
|Create a care plan||Meet with your RCC regularly to develop your CRP. The RCC program accepts Marines whether they are joined to the Wounded Warrior Regiment, located with their parent unit, resident in a military or civilian hospital, or joined to an I&I. For more information on the referral process go to: http://woundedwarriorregiment.org/index.cfm/programsresources/recoverycarecoordinators/|
|Manage finances||Check with the pay and entitlements staff to ensure you receive all pay and entitlements you rate and take advantage of free financial management courses on base. http://woundedwarriorregiment.org/index.cfm/programsresources/benefits/|
|Review legal papers||The Wounded Warrior Regiment’s attorneys are available to provide legal advice and services in understanding the various stages of the IDES process and more. For more information go to: http://woundedwarriorregiment.org/index.cfm/programsresources/legal/|
|Connect with others||Contact your family readiness officer for support groups and other opportunities in your area. For more information go to: http://woundedwarriorregiment.org/index.cfm/programsresources/familysupport/|
|Additional Resources||- Military FAQs – Caring for Service Member http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/caregivers.html
- VA Caregiver http://www.caregiver.va.gov/