AW2 Veteran’s Experience with the AW2 Program

By Donna Butler, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Veteran Taylor Njagu worked with a WTC career coordinator to secure a job with the Navy Equal Opportunity Office.

Taylor Njagu is an excellent example of how the AW2 program helps Wounded Warriors. During his military career, he was stationed at numerous overseas locations, such as Asia, Korea, Belgium, and the Netherlands. His last overseas assignment was in Germany, where he deployed for the first time to Iraq. He then received orders for Fort Drum in New York and while stationed there, he received orders to deploy a second time to Iraq. During his second deployment, Njagu became injured and needed to be medically air evacuated to the United States. Upon his return, the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Drum was there to greet him. After 21 ½ years of service and after his one year of medical treatment at the Fort Drum WTU,  Njagu was medically retired from the Army due to his injuries sustained while serving in Iraq.

For  Njagu, his military career was over and he found himself trying to cope with his medical retirement and his need to find a new job in the civilian work force. Njagu found this transition challenging and overwhelming, where he needed some assistance.

Despite his challenges, Njagu’s AW2 Advocate was able to help him with the transition process, by  working with him to better manage his medical problems. Njagu’s Advocate helped him through some psychological challenges and was very proactive. During this process, his AW2 Advocate suggested to Njagu  to keep a journal where he could write about his future plans. This journal enabled Njagu to look forward to a future while keeping his spirits up.

But, Njagu still looked for a civilian job and new location to settle down. Njagu’s Advocate connected Njagu with Scott Cox, a AW2 career coordinator, who became instrumental in helping Njagu organize and tailor his resume appropriately for civilian employers. With the proactive support from numerous individuals at AW2 and WTC, Njagu was able to connect with Navy Safe Harbor. Through this program, he had the opportunity to interview with the Navy Yard Equal Opportunity Office (EEO). He was then hired to work as an EEO specialist with the Navy Yard Director of the EEO Command.

Njagu shared with me that if it weren’t for AW2, his transition would have been very challenging. He was honored to have the opportunity to benefit from AW2 and from all those individuals who continue to develop the program. He feels as though he is “a product of the process” and wants to continue to share his story to help others who will follow him.

Deadline for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Extended Again

By Ron Perry, AW2 Finance Advisor

The deadline for eligible servicemembers, Veterans, and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to March 4, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they’ve earned under the program’s guidelines. This effects servicemembers who have not yet filed for RSLSP and had their enlistment involuntarily extended due to Stop Loss between September 11, 2001, and September 30, 2009.

Eligible servicemembers or their beneficiaries may be entitled to $500 per month for each month they were involuntarily extended on active duty by Stop Loss authority between September 11, 2001, and September 30, 2009.

Stop Loss payments are subject to federal and state taxes in most cases. DFAS will not have all W-2s or 1099s delivered until the end of January or early February. Recipients of Stop Loss payments should consider waiting until they receive their W-2s or 1099s before filing their federal and state taxes in order to avoid the need to file an amended return.

If a servicemember needs more information or meets eligibility criteria and would like to submit a claim, they should visit the U.S. Army Retroactive Stop Loss Pay Website before March 4, 2011, to be guaranteed payment. By law, there is no authorization to make payments on claims that are submitted after March 4, 2011.

Working Together Makes a Difference

BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

I had an opportunity yesterday to present the Army’s warrior care story to a dozen Veteran service organizations (VSOs) such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I was the guest of Dr. Michael Kilpatrick of Force Health Protection. Although I covered the nuts and bolts of how the Warrior Transition Command and Army Wounded Warrior Program operate, it’s hard to truly summarize what we do and the impact we have on helping wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers move forward.

I think the key to what we have done is that we understand that every Soldier we work with is a unique individual with distinct challenges—and so we created a uniform system with flexibility. We exist to help Soldiers chart their own path forward to a rich future and provide assistance in their following of a Comprehensive Transition Plan based on their goals.

In my discussions with the VSOs, I emphasized that this is a team effort between the Soldier, WTC, MEDCOM, VA, VSOs, and other organizations such as the USOC Paralympics. I also demonstrated what our team effort can accomplish by sharing the inspiring stories of a few of our Soldiers who have continued to serve after injury, including CPT Scott Smiley, who is blind. Knowing we’ve made a difference validates everyone’s hard work and commitment.

WTC Launches New Web site

BG Gary Cheek

BG Gary Cheek

In honor of the Army’s Warrior Care Month, the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) launched a new Web site and blog  on November 29 at http://WTC.armylive.dodlive.mil. The establishment of the WTC Web site is part of an ongoing effort by the command to better enable the Army to support wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families by providing information and updates from the command. With the launch of new Web site, we are providing information to nearly 9,000 WTC Soldiers and Veterans and allowing them to easily share feedback and experiences through the WTC Blog.

Please take a moment to visit http://WTC.armylive.dodlive.mil today and let us know what you think of the Web site by posting a comment on the blog.

Over the course of the next several weeks and months we will be publishing additional information to the Web site and asking for your feedback on a number of issues that are critical to the care of Warriors in Transition. While we build out these additional resources, we encourage you to provide feedback on how we can improve the WTC Web site as we move forward.

The Army has come a long way in improving warrior care and has established a program that delivers high quality care and transition services to Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. But it’s not perfect. Every day the members of this command strive to make the program better, and we are constantly seeking your input on what needs to get fixed and how we can take the program to the next level.

Please visit the new WTC Web site at http://WTC.armylive.dodlive.mil and the new blog at http://WTC.armylive.dodlive.mil/blog and tell us what you think.

Sincerely,

BG Gary Cheek

Commander, Warrior Transition Command (WTC)

Five Years of Support

This April, the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) marks five years of service to severely wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers and their Families. I had the opportunity to meet with some of AW2’s Soldiers and their Families at last year’s Symposium in Indianapolis. I look forward to the same opportunity in 2009.

AW2 has a unique mission providing personalized support to the most severely wounded Soldiers and their Families. This is a critical mission in our Army. When Soldiers volunteer to serve we ask them to take a solemn oath to our country. In turn, the Army makes a commitment to Soldiers and Families. It is the solemn and honorable task for those of us here at home to care for our nation’s Soldiers who have raised their hands and sacrificed on behalf of our country.

The Army takes this mission very seriously.

The Army recently aligned warrior care services under one organization, the Warrior Transition Command (WTC). WTC provides Soldiers and Families with unified support from the battlefield to the home front. And now, as commander of the newly formed WTC, I am very proud to have AW2 integrated into our collective efforts, working side by side.

AW2 was the Army’s first program put in place to serve the most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers—most returning from post-9/11 combat deployments. Over its five years in existence, AW2 has set the standard for care and compassion and its mission will not change under WTC.

The Army has not always gotten it right. The Army has, however, always worked to fix issues and to make improvements.

Soldiers serve our country every day on the front lines. As tough as their battles can be at war often the more difficult battles take place at home for wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers and their Families. It is our mission in Army warrior care to support Soldiers and Families as they heal, recover, and transition to their new normal. I am proud to be a part of this mission.

I look forward to continuing this noble endeavor with AW2, and I am counting on the continued dedication and enthusiasm of all who serve our wounded, ill, and injured heroes.

Thank you for your service.

BG Gary Cheek
Commander
Warrior Transition Command

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Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.