Recovery Care Coordinator: serving the ones who've served

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
For those on the road to recovery, a helping hand can make all the difference in the process being a smooth, easy transition back to normal life. For Air Force Recovery Care Coordinators, their mission is to streamline the way care and support is delivered so Airmen in need can regain their full potential and live a healthy, happy life once more.

Created in 2008 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the program is managed by the Air Force Warrior and Survivor Care Office, which also provides policy guidance for the RCC.

With 43 RCCs spread throughout the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, approximately 100 new recovering service members enroll in the program each month.

At Malmstrom Air Force Base, Jean Irvin, 341st Force Support Squadron RCC, serves as the primary point of contact for Airmen on the installation, as well as the entire state of Montana.

"I serve as an independent advocate for the wounded, ill and injured Airmen," said Irvin. "Our ultimate purpose as (care coordinators) is to ensure that recovering Airmen and their families understand the likely path of a member's recovery, the types of care and services provided and how much time recovery may take."

It is the RCC's job to oversee the development and implementation of a comprehensive recovery plan while coordinating with a medical care case manager to help the patient succeed in reaching full recovery.

Airmen eligible for the program must be seriously injured or ill from either combat or non-combat related circumstances; unlikely to return to duty within a specified amount of time or be in the process of medically separating from the military.

"We make sure the recovering service member and their families have access to all medical and non-medical services throughout the duration of their recovery phase, rehabilitation phase and the reintegration phase," said Irvin.

These responsibilities continue through the Airman's transfers between and among medical or other treatment facilities, as well as during the patient's retirement or separation from military service.

RCCs remain available to the Airmen they assist. The nature of military members' lives is very mobile.  When Airmen move on with their lives, RCCs ensures they have access to other members of the recovery team. 

The program has an active partnership with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and ensures those who need extended services are plugged into that system.

According to Irvin, a lot of patients are surprised to find out that care coordinators also help with non-medical issues.

When patients initially enter recovery, friends and family can make all the difference in helping with a successfully recovery, she says. For RCCs, helping loved ones find housing and financing to be with them is something they strive to provide.

"The RCCs are basically the boots on the ground for service members who just need to focus on healing," said Irvin.

Other examples include helping patients with benefits and compensation, helping with administrative and personnel paperwork, and putting them into contact with organizations that can improve their overall quality of life.

"We coordinate with the entire recovery team," said Irvin.

Facilitating an efficient, effective and smooth transition back to duty or civilian life is a very important part of what care coordinators do, she said.

For Irvin, having the opportunity to work with these men and women in need is what makes the job special.

Getting the word out to service members who may benefit from this service is very important to care coordinators, they are here to help, she says. 

For more information on Recovery Care Coordinator service, contact the Air Force Warrior and Survivor Assistance toll free help line at 1-877-872-3435 or Jean Irvin at 406-731-4284.