USSOCOM’s Care Coalition has changed its name to the Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) and still provides remarkable service to special operations forces wounded, ill or injured Service members and their families.
The Warrior Care Program’s name change was implemented to mirror the services programs and alleviate the connotation the Care Coalition was a benevolent, private organization. The Warrior Care Program continues to assist in recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration as quickly as possible, thereby strengthening SOF readiness. Last, if needed, the Warrior Care Program facilitates career and medical transition back to civilian life.
“We changed the name to the Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) to standardize us (USSOCOM) with the services. We are all warrior care programs,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Major H. Kelly Ammerman, USSOCOM Warrior Care Program senior enlisted advisor. “Care Coalition is our legacy name, but sometimes the name was misleading depicting us as a benevolent organization, something outside the government, but we are in fact a military organization with military leadership and military funded, so we needed a name that reflected what we are and that there is no confusion.”
Founded in 2005 with the charter to advocate for SOF and their families after life changing events, the organizations primary focus has always been on retention rather than transition. In fact, according to U.S. Army Col. Cary Harbaugh, Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) director, SOCOM’s retention rate after illness or injury is 73 percent, the services are at about 10 percent.
“We are the gold standard in Warrior Care. Unfortunately, we have a steady flow of ill and wounded. Today, SOF are in dangerous and hazardous environments and our training is high risk. So as we have a steady influx of ill and wounded and our focus is on returning them back to the force and we take all measures to do so,” said Harbaugh. “We view the medical evaluation board as the last step and we do everything we can to appropriately delay the board to ensure all treatments are tried. I think that is why we have such a high retention rate.”
Starting as a fledgling organization with just a few people, the Warrior Care Program today has 95 employees who take care of about 11,800 people. The Warrior Care Program embodies the SOF truth “Humans are more important than hardware” and they exist to serve the SOF community.
“When Care Coalition started Gen. Brown just wanted to know where his people were coming off the battlefield. No one could tell him. So that is what started the Care Coalition,” Ammerman said. “The second part Gen. Brown wanted the best possible outcome for his guys and retain them. Brown’s view was we had so much invested in our warriors and that we should do everything we could to keep them.”
Today, the Warrior Care Program is based on four pillars of service. Recovery is the first pillar of the Warrior Care Program and is where the organization ensures the wounded or ill Service member receives the best and appropriate treatment. Following recovery, the rehabilitation process begins with the end goal to maintain optimal medical and operational fitness to reintegrate the patient back to the best possible health outcome. The third pillar in the Warrior Care Program focuses on reintegration where retaining the special operator and returning them to active duty is the priority.
If retaining a service member is not medically possible then the last pillar of the Warrior Care Program places its energy in helping the service member with a seamless transition to civilian life for continued medical care, benefits, and career opportunities.
“We want the service member to leave service on their terms. We make every effort to keep people, but if we can’t then we make every effort to help with their transition,” Harbaugh said.
Supporting recovery, rehabilitation, reintegration philosophy the Warrior Care staff accomplish their mission with recovery care coordination, community outreach, military adaptive sports program and if needed career transition opportunities.
The staff works closely with SOF wounded, ill, and injured, their families and their recovery teams to develop a Comprehensive Recovery Plan. This plan identifies the Service member's and family's goals and the resources they need to achieve them, such as assistive technology, education, employment, or housing.
The Community Outreach section seeks to bridge gaps in support during the treatment, recovery and reintegration processes by providing an avenue, directly to the service members in need, for non-government goods, services, and support provided by benevolent and charitable entities. The Community Outreach section also serves as the point of contact for organizations seeking to support SOF wounded, ill, and injured Service members through charitable gifts and special events.
“Benevolent organizations really want to help our SOF warriors. They are not tied to the Department of Defense and we make sure they meet all the legal guidelines,” Harbaugh said.
Military adaptive sports assists in both the physical and mental process to improve the overall health and welfare of wounded, ill, or injured SOF, by participating in adaptive team sports. The next adaptive sports camp will be held Feb 24 – Mar. 4 on MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Former President George W. Bush will visit the camp Feb. 27.
Finally, if a Service member needs help transitioning to civilian life, the Warrior Care Program has fellowships with employers, an employment network and helps with education and training.
The USSOCOM Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) headquarters are located in Tampa, Florida, but the recovery care coordinators and liaisons operate in multiple locations around the globe. These include major military treatment facilities and Department of Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Rehabilitation centers. RCCs and LNOs stand shoulder-to-shoulder helping the warriors and families providing services available to the total force – active duty, reserve, and veterans and their families.
“We want folks in our community to understand we are just not for the combat wounded. We can take care of the ill or injured Service member, but we can also help with a family member in a health crisis,” Harbaugh said. “We view it as a readiness issue if a Service member comes off the line to assist a sick family member then we want to help to resolve the issue quickly as possible for the well-being of the family and in turn the unit.”
The Warrior Care Program will hold their annual conference March 1-2 in Tampa, Florida. The USSOCOM Warrior Care Program hotline is (877) 672-3039 and their website is https://www.socom.mil/care-coalition/.