Monday, January 7, 2008

Handbook for wounded soldiers and families

Handbook outlines benefits, bureaucracy for wounded vets

By Karen Jowers -
Posted : January 14, 2008

A new handbook designed to help wounded warriors and their families navigate the bureaucracy to get the benefits they have earned is now available.

The 149-page “A Handbook for Injured Service Members and Their Families” was prepared free by a New York-based law firm for two nonprofit charities — the Wounded Warrior Project and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. It can be downloaded for free at and

“This answers the questions you have,” said Army Spc. James O’Leary, who received multiple injuries in a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004. “I didn’t know what I was eligible for. I didn’t know about the vocational rehabilitation program, which is much better than the GI Bill and pays for all your tuition and books. I didn’t know about the evaluation system. I figured if [the Veterans Affairs Department] gave me a certain rating, that’s what I would be eligible for.”

Davis Polk & Wardell donated about $500,000 worth of time, with hundreds of attorneys combing through government laws, regulations and other information, said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Foundation, which operates the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

“They tried to simplify and put the information in layman’s terms, so that if you’re 19 years old and haven’t gone to law school, ... you can understand it,” White said, adding that the senior lead partner on the project is a retired Marine.

The handbook is divided into sections dealing with issues that come up during the process wounded service members go through, said Jeremy Chwat, vice president for policy and public affairs for the Wounded Warrior Project.

“We wanted to make sure service members understand their benefits and rights and that it’s not lost in legislative speak,” Chwat said.

Chapters include “Immediate Concerns,” with details on important documents, financial aid sources and information on service members’ continuing salaries.

For families traveling to be at their service member’s bedside, information is included about the military’s invitational travel orders, per diem rates for family members, and a listing of contacts for all Fisher House homes.

Extensive information about the disability evaluation systems, education and employment benefits, health benefits, legal rights and legal assistance, and other federal benefits is provided.

The handbook has a glossary and a state-by-state list of resources for the wounded. Other resources are sprinkled throughout, such as Disabled American Veterans and the Army’s Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline.


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