Friday, December 4, 2009

Did You Really Need A Survey To Find Out The WTUs Are Broken?

Today I checked my AKO email for the first time in a little bit, and found a survey ostensibly from General Cheeks, wanting to know about the WTU system, what was helpful, what was not. It was phrased in relentlessly positive seeking which drove me a little bit crazy. (An example: It had 'What has your greatest challenge been?' but did not list a place where you could put down all the things that were actually screwed up with your unit or the WTU system.

Hopefully the Army will forgive me for saying so, but I'm just a little skeptical of the redemptive power of surveys. In my time in the Army, I've taken Command Climate surveys as regularly as the changing of the seasons, and I can't recall a single instance in which any of the issues we raised were fixed as a result. At best, we would get a face-to-face with our commander, who would put powerpoint slides on a projector and explain why our problems didn't matter. Sometimes we would get promises that answers to our questions were going to be compiled and made available to someone else, who we could then check with. (I'm looking at YOU, Wiesbaden Garrison)

I know that the naysayers are immediately going to comment that none of the problems listed were probably real problems. This is entirely inaccurate. Problems that I knew were listed ranged from "Commander is sexually harassing soldiers" to "Pay problems are forcing me to literally starve" to "Our unit is falsifying paperwork". And maybe the answer is that things were happening behind the scenes, commanders were being yelled at quietly for their units getting so bad. And that's great and all, but it still leaves the soldiers with the perception that no one cares.

For example, the WTU system. Some problems I can think of offhand:
1) Despite it supposedly being a place that focuses on transition, from my experience and that of other soldiers I know, once you actually start transitioning, they don't tend to give a damn. The WTU was envisioned as a place where all your problems could get taken care of. It's supposed to be one of the things helping to stop disabled vets from turning into disabled homeless vets on the corner. And it's doing almost none of that. There's a lot of focus on transitioning back to the force, but for all their talk, they are almost useless at helping transition to civilian life except for making time for you to go to ACAP.

2) Discrimination within the system. Providers take their own prejudices (from what counts as a Real Injury to Where You Were Injured) and apply them to the soldiers. We had one soldier who had an injury to her back from an accident in the leadup to deployment. She was pretty much treated like her injuries were immaterial. But another soldier who had a similar injury, but got it downrange, was treated like gold. Or the weirdest part was when soldiers would come in with multiple injuries, some received in combat, some noncombat. There would be discrimination on the /same soldier/ about their injuries-some would get treated and cared for, and others would be judged "not relevant" even though they were more disabling.

3) People are trying too hard to get soldiers out the door so they don't actually have to take care of them. I've heard this from everyone from squad leaders to nurse case managers to first sergeants and commanders. The WTU is not supposed to be a long term assignment, or so they say. The thing is, though, if the WTU isn't supposed to be a long term assignment, what DO you do with people who are complex care longterm? What do you do with people who still have not reached Maximum Medical Benefit? (The point at which they decide whether to medically discharge them or not) You have someone receiving multiple surgeries and having to recover from them. They need a WTU, they're not capable of functioning in a real unit. But because of the prejudice against having soldiers there longterm, someone is trying to hurry this soldier out the door, to their detriment.

Any other WTs who want to chime in, let me know.