Wounded troops not getting trauma pay

By Tom Philpott

Too many severely injured troops and their families haven’t been getting the bedside help they need in preparing applications to qualify for up to $100,000 in traumatic injury insurance.

But that is going to change, says Army Col. John Sackett.

Sackett heads the Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) branch within the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va.

More than 6,600 claims for TSGLI have been filed by wounded or injured soldiers since the program began on Dec. 1, 2005. But only 2700 Army claims, about 40 percent of the total, have been approved.

Many more wounded members from all services would be found eligible for TSGLI, or have their applications approved much sooner than now occurs, if service members, family caregivers and especially medical staff were better informed on the kind of detailed documentation TSGLI requires, Sackett said.

To increase their knowledge, and boost the number of claims approved, the Army is assigning Soldier Family Support Specialists to 10 military treatment facilities critical in the treatment of trauma patients.

These specialists already are deployed, and holding TSGLI training sessions for anyone involved in care giving or advising severely wounded or injured members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; William Beaumont AMC at Fort Bliss, Texas; Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Ga.

More of these counselors are being trained to deploy soon to Schofield Army Medical Center, Hawaii; Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, Ky.; Guthrie Ambulatory Army Medical Center, Fort Drum, N.Y.; Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash., and Darnall Army Hospital, Fort Hood, Texas.

Every member covered by Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance also pays an extra $1 a month for traumatic injury protection.

TSGLI pays $25,000 up to $100,000 to help severely injured members and families handle the extra expense and the strain of adjusting to life-altering injuries.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which administers TSGLI, lists 44 types of losses that can qualify a member for payment.

Conditions not difficult to document involve the loss of body parts or bodily functions, severe burns, or severe brain and spinal chord injuries.

A far bigger and more complex problem in preparing TSGLI claims, however, involves members who suffer severe wounds to limbs that are saved or have mild traumatic brain injury.

The trauma can leave them dependent on others to perform “activities of daily living” such as dressing, bathing, toileting or feeding themselves for extended periods.

If unable to independently perform two or more of these activities for 30 days, the member will qualify for $25,000 in TSGLI. If debilitated in this way for 60 days, the payment is $50,000; 90 days, $75,000; and 120 days would qualify for the maximum award of $100,000.

Of nearly 3,700 Army TSGLI claims rejected by the VA, about 90 percent involve claims of members’ lost ability to perform activities of daily living. They are being rejected, Sackett said, because care givers including medical staff aren’t documenting what VA needs to see to prove loss of ability to perform activities of daily life for 30 to 120 days.

Tom Philpott can be contacted at Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, Va. 20120-1111, or by e-mail at: milupdate@aol.com