The handbook was created to help servicemembers and the family members helping to care for them navigate through the military and veteran disability, evaluation, compensation and benefits programs designed to help them, explained Sharon Gunselman, a department policy and resource analyst.
It walks readers through the processes of recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration back to the military or into civilian life. Each section describes the compensation and benefits available at each stage.
The Dole-Shalala Commission, led by former Sen. Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, health and human services secretary during the Clinton administration, identified the need for a comprehensive information source last year during its investigation of problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Gunselman said.
The departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and the Social Security Administration, as well as other governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations, contributed to the handbook.
The handbook, mandated by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, is now available online and is being distributed by the services in hard-copy format. It provides Web sites and toll-free phone numbers, and the electronic version includes hyperlinks. Gunseleman said the book will be updated annually to include new information.
Gates emphasized that the handbook is not intended to be a replacement for what he called “the best source of information” — the servicemember’s chain of command or medical and nonmedical care providers.
He noted that because all affected servicemembers will have different requirements, their support staffs will help design individual plans that ensure they and their families receive the support and benefits they need.
“You and your fellow patriots who volunteered to serve in our armed forces have no equal in the world,” Gates concluded. “Our responsibility is to provide you care that is unequalled in the world. We owe this to you. We will deliver this to you.”