• MEDCOM ombudsmen support soldiers, families

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Two Medical Command ombudsmen at Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, Kan., Darlene Washington and Amber Acosta-Doucette, want people to know that they also serve as a program resource for soldiers and their families stationed at Fort Leavenworth.
    Washington said the purpose of the ombudsman program is to support soldiers who need assistance with medical-related issues. She said ombudsmen serve both soldiers assigned to a warrior transition unit and those who are not in a WTU, and their family members.
    “Ombudsmen are Department of the Army civilians selected for their experience and passion for helping soldiers,” Washington said. “There is a hotline a soldier and their family members can call to communicate with an ombudsman directly.”
    Washington said there was an ombudsman at Fort Leavenworth when the post had a WTU. Now that it does not, her office serves the communities of both Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.
    “Ombudsmen in the United States, Puerto Rico and Europe help at the various locations where soldiers work and live,” Washington said. “All of the information about the program, including our direct telephone numbers, is available on the ombudsman website.”
    Washington said an ombudsman functions as an independent, neutral and impartial mediator who works on behalf of soldiers and their family members. These mediators usually work inside Army medical treatment facilities but are not assigned to them.
    “Ombudsmen serve as a liaison between the Medical Command, the soldier or family member and the (medical treatment facility) commander by acting as a communicator, facilitator and problem solver,” Washington said. “We also work in collaboration with your patient advocacy office and medical assistance group to help resolve any issues that arise from using the Army’s Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline (at 800-984-8523), the Wounded Warrior Resource Center and the Surgeon General website.”
    Washington said MEDCOM established the ombudsman program as an outgrowth of the Army Medical Action Plan. She said it was part of the Army’s response to complaints and feedback to ensure soldiers and their families would receive the very best health care.
    “We work to improve infrastructure and streamline administrative actions that provide a vehicle soldiers and family members can use to air grievances they may have and get assistance resolving any problems,” Washington said.
    The Army created warrior transition units to recognize warrior care as an enduring mission. WTUs provide the support wounded, ill and injured soldiers need to transition back to the force or veteran status.
    Soldiers and family members are encouraged to visit the ombudsman website at http://armymedicine.mil/Pages/ombudsman.aspx for more information about the program.
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