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Non-medical care managers dedicated to helping wounded warriors, their caregivers and families

Care managers

Tijuana Hannibal (left), a lead non-medical care manager with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, discusses personnel and career options with retired Senior Airman Hannah Stolberg, who enrolled in the AFW2 Program in 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Salomon)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Non-medical care managers serve as the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s subject-matter experts and actively advocate for more than 3,000 wounded, ill and injured service men and women.

They help guide wounded warriors, their caregivers and families through a multitude of life-changing scenarios. They provide personnel guidance and career transition assistance, and help with benefit and entitlement decisions, financial counseling, employment referrals, education information, medical care coordination and other services.

“What makes our program different is the well-coordinated and personalized service our program affords wounded, ill and injured Airmen,” said Col. Michael Flatten, chief of the AFW2 Program at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “Our advocacy extends to ensuring accessibility and minimizing delays and gaps in medical and non-medical services.”

The NMCMs, as the lead coordinators, are required to make substantial contact with wounded warriors and caregivers at least every 30 days. Contact is made through face-to-face visits, telephone calls, e-mails and text messages. Consistent back-and-forth dialogue helps establish trust and ensures the wounded warriors are not forced to face their difficulties alone.

“Our NMCMs work with recovering service members and their families to guide them through various day-to-day challenges,” said Tijuana Hannibal, a regional NMCM team lead with the AFW2 Program. “Our goal is to give wounded warriors the resources they need and provide them a roadmap for their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration.”

As part of AFPC operations in San Antonio, each NMCM is assigned to one of six geographical regions or to one of two specialty cells that support active duty, retired and air reserve component personnel worldwide. The NMCMs work in tandem with recovery care coordinators in their designated regions to make sure wounded warriors and their caregivers have the tools and resources they need to help with their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Assisting wounded warriors in their recovery is a team effort involving caregivers, clinical case managers, physical evaluation board liaison officers, RCCs, commanders, first sergeants and a host of support program providers.

“Working in this organization is a calling; not everyone can do it,” Flatten said. “We are lucky to have NMCMs who understand the honor entrusted to them through serving these incredible Airmen and their families.”

Kathy Dashnea, a NMCM who serves the South Central Region, once assisted an Airman who had been severely injured after a suicide bomber struck his security forces unit while on foot patrol. She helped him with his permanent change of station orders and pay, ensured he had the proper code classification for his injuries, assisted with his wife’s join-spouse assignment and encouraged him to take part in wounded warrior adaptive sports (CARE) events. The staff sergeant later returned to active duty and attributed the AFW2 Program’s support as key to his success.

“The many rules, regulations and resources out there can be overwhelming for those recovering from physical and mental injuries,” Dashnea said. “We build partnerships with recovering service members and help guide them through the various challenges they face.”

While the goal of the program is to return recovering service members to active duty, it is not always possible. In those cases where a member needs to transition to veteran’s status, the program’s NMCMs provide individualized “warm hand-offs” with medical care managers at Veterans Affairs.

“We provide a comprehensive recovery plan to the VA, while the medical community provides necessary medical documentation,” Hannibal said. “This ensures the transitioning Airman will be enrolled and scheduled for initial medical appointments and identifies a lead VA coordinator to personally manage the Airman's care.”

Throughout the care process, NMCMs continue to assess the Airman's needs and adjust services to ensure the recovering service member, family and caregiver have the support they need.

“All of us are in their corner fighting for them and their families,” Dashnea said. “We are committed to helping them improve their quality of life and resiliency, so they can continue on the road to recovery.”

The AFW2 Program is administered by AFPC and includes NMCMs, RCCs and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to help guide them through various day-to-day challenges.

Visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil for more information about the AFW2 Program. For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers using a CAC-enabled computer. Eligible individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following instructions on screen.