Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many facilities are in the Polytrauma System of Care and where are they located?
There are 5 Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers. Four of the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRC) and four Polytrauma Transitional Rehabilitation Programs (PTRP) are collocated on the same VA medical campus:
Each PRC location houses a Polytrauma Network Site as well. There are 18 additional Network Sites.
In addition to the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers, Polytrauma Transitional Rehabilitation programs, and Polytrauma Network Sites, there are 86 Polytrauma Support Clinic Teams located through out the VA Healthcare System.
2. How many Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom active duty service members and veterans have been seen in the Polytrauma System of Care?
As of April 2007, VA has treated over 350 Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom service members in their inpatient units. The vast majority of these patients have been on active duty at the time of admission, as the major cause of injury has been trauma sustained in combat.
3. Where do patients go after they leave a Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center? How is their health care program maintained?
The majority of patients are discharged to home and receive their specialized follow-up care at a Polytrauma Network Site, or another VA facility in the Polytrauma System of Care. However, some patients, due to the severity of their injuries, require ongoing sub-acute or long term care. Some patients return to a Military Treatment Facility for follow-up after VA discharge. Some patients return to Active Duty within the military.
Polytrauma Rehabilitation Teams develop individualized follow-up plans for each patient after discharge. These include recommendations for continued medical care, therapy services, mental health, prosthetic devices and aids, and community re-entry services and resources. The plans are developed with patients and families and communicated to the receiving medical facilities as well as the military case managers. Polytrauma Case Managers make phone calls following the discharge of a patient to ensure that follow-up plans are implemented and to help resolve any issues that might emerge.
4. How is VA helping the families of seriously injured service members in the Polytrauma System of Care?
VA considers family support a priority. Medical Center leadership is visible and available for meetings with families throughout their stay in the Polytrauma System of Care. Case managers provide active support by coordinating the efforts of clinical staff, voluntary services, and service organizations. They also work with community organizations and businesses to provide lodging, transportation, meals, and recreational activities for families, if needed. Each Polytrauma team has a clinical psychologist and a neuropsychologist who are available to provide counseling, education, and support services to families.
5. How does VA communicate with the Department of Defense regarding service members in the Polytrauma System of Care?
The VA Seamless Transition social worker assigned to the military treatment facility currently caring for the patient makes contact with staff at the receiving Polytrauma System of Care facility. Vital clinical information is then transmitted to the admission case manager at the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center for review. The admission case manager remains in contact with the Seamless Transition social worker and the clinical team at the military treatment facility until the patient is transferred to the receiving VA Polytrauma facility. During the service member's stay, the VA case manager remains in contact with the patient's military branch to keep them informed of progress and changes in the patient's condition. VA and the Department of Defense use phone calls, secure records transfers, and meetings to ensure open communication and effective coordination. Physicians in the Polytrauma System of Care and at Military Treatment Facilities contact each other directly through teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and through VA social workers assigned to each facility.
6. Why is there such an emphasis on brain injuries?
It has been said that traumatic brain injuries - caused by Improvised Explosive Devices, mortars, vehicle accidents, grenades, bullets, mines, falls and more - may be the hallmark injury faced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Even those who were not obviously wounded in explosions or accidents may have sustained a brain injury. It's important that the military, families, service members and the community understand some of the subtle signs and seek screening at their local VA facility or from the military.
7. What do the military liaisons do in Polytrauma facilities?
Military liaisons are an important resource for active duty families and VA staff. They coordinate care and service benefits for service members and their families. They also work to resolve administrative issues involving travel for family members, lodging, reimbursement and pay issues, and transportation and/or shipment of household or personal goods.
8. How does the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio fit into the Polytrauma System of Care?
The Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio was financed and constructed by the Fisher House Foundation and by private donations as a non-profit rehabilitation center to care for service members and veterans with amputations, severe trauma, and serious burns. The Department of the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working together in the Center for the Intrepid to provide clinical care and research for these service members.
Employees from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will be working side-by-side with Army colleagues to provide the best possible rehabilitative services to severely injured service members and veterans. VHA will provide physical therapy, occupational therapy, prosthetics services, social work case management, and seamless transition liaison services. VBA will offer information and education about benefits and vocational rehabilitation services, and provide assistance with benefits claims. Physicians and staff at The Center will work with VA and the Department of Defense to provide educational and research opportunities to improve the quality of care provided by all rehabilitation specialists in the military or civilian systems.
9. How do the different facilities in the Polytrauma System of Care communicate with each other?
The Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers, Polytrauma Transitional Rehabilitation Programs and Polytrauma Network Sites participate in regular conference calls. These calls include representatives from the different services and departments involved in supporting the Polytrauma System of Care, including Social Work Services, Nursing Services, the Office of Seamless Transition, Mental Health Strategic Health Group, Voluntary Services, and the Prosthetics and Sensory Aides Service. The leadership teams of the four Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers are involved in bi-weekly conference calls of the Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Group. These calls address ongoing clinical and administrative issues at the centers. Our Polytrauma Network Sites regularly consult with the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers by tele-conferencing, phone, and email, and VA's system of electronic health records allow physicians to consult each other easily on any case.
10. How does VA compare with the private sector in this area?
Today's veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries are receiving state-of-the-art treatment and rehabilitation in the Polytrauma System of Care. Combat injured service members with Traumatic Brain Injury are faring as well as in their day-to-day activities as those in the private sector according to a report from the VA Inspector General. That is especially noteworthy because patients treated at VA facilities have more severe injuries than those in the private sector.