Army shutting down wounded warrior transition care units

  • By LOLITA C. BALDOR
  • Friday, April 17, 2015 3:12pm
  • News

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in two years, the U.S. Army is shutting down a number of the specialized medical units that were set up at military bases around the country to help care for severely wounded warriors returning from battle.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have begun to wind down, the number of service members with complex physical, mental and emotional wounds and illnesses has dramatically declined, erasing much of the need for the specialized care.

Ten of the 25 warrior transition units will be closed by August 2016, but officials said the reorganization is being done in a way that will allow them to restart the care if needed.

Army Col. Chris Toner, who heads the Warrior Transition Command, said there are about 3,650 soldiers in the units now, and about 66,000 have gone through the treatment centers since they were opened in 2007. At the peak, there were 45 WTUs, treating 12,500 soldiers at one time.

Toner said the Army was “very hesitant to take a big leap forward” and shut down more of the units. He said that maintaining 15 at major Army installations where there are large concentrations of soldiers would give the Army the ability to serve as many as 8,100 injured troops.

Plagued with a spotty history, the transition units began in the aftermath of the health care scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007, as the military grappled with the challenge of caring for an escalating number of seriously wounded troops coming home from the wars. The units were designed to give soldiers comprehensive and coordinated medical and mental health care and provide counseling on legal, financial and other issues as they transition either out of the service to civilian life or back to military duty.

But early on the number of soldiers in the transition units spiked as commanders began using them as dumping grounds to get soldiers with lesser injuries or behavioral problems off their books as the troops got ready to deploy to the warfront.

Now, Toner said, commanders are better informed about what soldiers can go to the long-term care units. But the Army is also looking at refining its criteria for getting into the units, so that active duty and reserve troops would have the same requirements.

Currently, to be accepted into a unit, an active duty soldier must require more than 6 months of care for injuries, illness or other psychological conditions that require complex management and limit the troop’s ability to be on duty. National Guard and Reserve troops serving on active duty must require more than 30 days of care.

Toner said 48 percent of the soldiers in the units now are active duty troops and the rest are reserves. And, more than 1,700 of the approximately 3,650 soldiers are being treated for some type of post-traumatic stress or behavioral diagnosis. About 85 percent of those with stress or behavioral problems have deployed to the warzone at least once.

Throughout the history of the transition units, about 40 percent were able to return to duty, while the rest left the military.

Toner said closing the 10 units will affect about 800 soldiers and 300 employees. Over the next year, workers will be reassigned if possible to other jobs on the base or in the region, or could move to one of the remaining units. The patients will continue to receive care and could be transitioned to community-based or other nearby units over time. The Army expects to save about $352 million by closing transition unites at Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Fort Meade, Maryland; and Naval Medical Center, San Diego, California.

 

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read