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Team works to heal, help injured ARC Airmen

  • Published
  • By Debbie Gildea
  • Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

Air Reserve Component members who are injured or develop an illness while on active duty orders now have a centrally located team of specialists working to help them get well, get their benefits, and get back to their life.

The Air Reserve Component Case Management Division, recently established at the Air Force Personnel Center, is composed of total force medical, personnel and finance specialists to help injured ARC Airmen get well, said Lt. Col. Thomas Matschek, ARC Case Management Division chief.

Medical continuation originated in 2004 when many ARC Airmen returned from deployment injured or ill and in need of care, said Matschek. In addition, force readiness was affected. Originally decentralized with major commands managing their own programs, in 2008 the program was centralized under the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. An independent review indicated that adding case management would improve the process, he said.

Bringing all key players under one roof is helping to minimize the length of time an Airman spends in the medical continuation system and enable the active duty and ARC specialists to maximize their care and support, the colonel explained.

"Since the July initial operational capability point, we've averaged about 25 new case certifications or existing case extensions per week," he said. "We've seen some great successes when we've been able to use our medical case management skills to bring some of our more severely wounded airmen to major military treatment platforms or VA poly-trauma centers of excellence. These locations help ensure an affected airman has efficient access to a full spectrum of evaluation and treatment options."

In addition, the division is capitalizing on the opportunity to work synergistically with the various teams in AFPC, including the disabilities and wounded warriors divisions.

The priority for Airmen on MEDCON orders is to get well. The priority for the MEDCON team is to assist the Airman in obtaining authorized medical care, entitlements and benefits.

"We are trying to ensure Airmen receive the appropriate entitlements and benefits through a prompt, all-encompassing administrative process, and the centralized care division is helping us do that. We're eliminating a lot of the guessing by providing individualized case management, with special attention to complex situations," said Matschek.

While processes are standardized, individual cases and outcomes will vary.

"We have a large Reserve and Guard population and their needs range from routine to urgent, so this division will significantly change the landscape for injured ARC Airmen," he said. "It's important to note that 47 percent of the total force comes from ARC, and those Airmen are involved in every contingency. More than 11 percent of ARC Airmen were involved in Iraq in 2008, and 22 percent were in Afghanistan."

ARC Airmen deploy and work side-by-side with active duty Airmen, and like their active duty teammates, they are removed from forward locations if seriously injured or ill.

Unlike active duty, however, a line of duty determination is required for ARC Airmen, as well as an evaluation to determine whether or not they will be vectored to the MEDCON program.

"The line of duty determination and evaluation will help us identify members who may not have been identified earlier and, if necessary, vector them to the MEDCON program. There are also unique cases that may not surface until several months after demobilization. Those cases will be handled through the service member's medical unit and vectored to the ARC-CMD," said the colonel.

Once on medical continuation orders, ARC Airmen are required to report to their unit or alternate duty location and perform work to the extent that their medical condition allows.

In addition, they are scheduled for a variety of appointments focused on helping them get better and enabling them to return to duty. If an Airman requires additional time for treatment or recovery beyond a six-month period, or the condition has not improved, the ARC CMD will either request an extension to the MEDCON orders or recommend Integrated Disability Evaluation System processing.

"Sadly, some Airmen will not be returned to duty, and this division will help prepare them for the medical evaluation board or other separation process," said Matschek.

The decision to establish a holistic division at the personnel center supports the Air Force's long tradition of caring for Airmen, the colonel said.

"We have a continuing obligation to care for all Airmen throughout their service and - in many cases - beyond," he said. "This division will help us meet that obligation."

For more information about the ARC medical continuation program, or for information about other personnel issues, visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.